Inspire, Connect, Empower

Triton Leaders Conference 2019

Nearly 200 UC San Diego alumni returned to campus this February for two days of impact, empowerment and inspiration at the second annual Triton Leaders Conference. Alumni from across the country, many who haven’t been back in years, spent the weekend learning about future of campus, connecting with current students and illustrious alumni, and celebrating the spirit of volunteerism and pride for the world-class institution that shaped their lives.

Open Board, Open House

The weekend began with the annual open meeting of the Alumni Board of Directors, offering direct access to the foremost leaders on campus. Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla outlined university priorities and the latest plans to support our students well into the future, drawing upon the expertise of campus leaders Alysson Satterlund, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Director of the Teaching + Learning Commons Gabriele Weinhausen, and Jeff Orgera, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Retention and Success. “Student experience is priority one, two and three,” Chancellor Khosla said. “This campus will be a destination…as we can take what we have and create a live, learn, and play community.” Athletics Director Earl Edwards gave an update on the drive to Division I athletics (and led a spirited rendition of the Triton Fight Song), while Associate Vice Chancellor Cheryl Harrelson detailed alumni engagement and giving goals for the future and encouraged alumni to serve as ambassadors to effect change for our students.

After lunch Tritons were treated to a masterclass in professional organization, as Lean Six Sigma instructor Tracy O’Rourke brought the phenomenon of “tidying up” to one’s work life. Drawing from her course offered via UC San Diego Extension, O’Rourke outlined how the principles of decluttering that can help one clean out physical spaces like a garage or closet can likewise streamline our work life. Just as a closet can collect needless items, work processes can similarly accumulate additional steps or procedures over time that require one to step back, review and determine if they truly serve a purpose.

World Class Tritons

Olympian, entrepreneur, global ambassador and humanitarian Tamara Jenkins Cheek ’05 opened up Saturday morning with a keynote address highlighting the lessons she learned training for the world’s premier athletics stage and her experience attending UC San Diego later in life. While her peers went straight into college, Cheek began preparing for the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic games with a grueling training regimen, which she illustrated with an impromptu push-up session. After the games, Cheek attended UC San Diego where she had to discover for herself how to define success when an NBC Sports commentator isn’t doing it for you. “UCSD teaches you how to think, not what to think,” she said, and it was this training that she drew upon in starting her own business, Vicaso, as well as becoming a major part of the successful bid to bring the Olympic Games back to Los Angeles in 2028.

Alumni shortly after had the opportunity to hear from current students at the Student Showcase, in which four current Tritons shared their honest thoughts on their campus experience, from the the drive to make global change to the desire for alumni support and collaboration. Xiangdi Zhang ’19 fought against tears in recalling her experience leaving her family to come to the U.S. as an international student, to pursue studies alone in a foreign country. “I want to use this platform to advocate for more support,” she said, “be it mentorship or financial, for international students… it’s about personal growth and learning how to give back to the global community.” Lin Hein ’19 took this sentiment further, inviting alumni to truly be a part of what they are trying to achieve. “We want you to come to our meetings,” he said, “to sit down at our table, brainstorm ideas with us, laugh together. If there’s a cause you want to address, most likely there are students working on the same thing.” Such ambition and emotion in the hearts of these young changemakers was on full display, as were the many ways for alumni to get involved and make a difference in their lives. Get involved with students.

Three preeminent alumni leaders were then celebrated at the True Triton Awards luncheon, honoring the spirit of giving back and the commitment to keeping UC San Diego close in heart and mind. Longtime alumni board member Sam Knight ’73 was noted for his contributions both big and small: from spearheading an expanding program to train STEM students in the soft skills they need to succeed in life, to the good deeds he does for students on campus, like hot chocolate delivery to the lifeguards on duty at the Canyonview pool.

Alumna Wendy Kwok ’99 was honored for the many hats she wears on the UC San Diego Foundation Board and Student Foundation, her role on leadership councils and cabinets, as well as endowments she has created and the international partnerships she’s brokered for the benefit of students.

Bob Rex, PhD ’58 was likewise celebrated for the many roles he’s taken at UC San Diego—starting since its founding in 1960. Graduating from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Rex has been a fixture on campus for most of his life, even at 90 years young. Rex’s role in supporting experiential learning programs for the Alaska Native High School students add to a lifetime of philanthropic support and devotion to graduate students, advancing research and diversity in their disciplines.

The Parting Shot

Following the celebration, Jason Carbone ’90 minced no words in declaring the stakes of his afternoon keynote address—a battle for the soul of humanity. Carbone made a convincing case for such a statement, drawing upon a long career as a producer and director since the inception of reality television, and provided keen insight into its potential to shape the world as we know it. “We have entered an era of a content landscape where people broadcast their lives and the loudest ones get famous,” he said. “When we’re constantly hunting for the next biggest, craziest spectacle in people’s real lives, we stop living real lives, and start living TV shows.” For Carbone, it comes down to the power of stories and our power to choose what stories we consume—those that can affect profound social understanding (think Pedro, the HIV-positive member of 1994’s The Real World: San Francisco), or others that highlight our worst qualities for the sake of spectacle (Puck, anyone?).


Stories have power—Triton magazine is the place for yours. What’s your UC San Diego alumni story?


Overall, alumni left ready to reconnect, reengage, and recommit to being a part of UC San Diego in meaningful ways—through mentorship, volunteering, lifelong learning and more. We need you, our alumni, as partners in advancing the mission of the university to make change in our communities and beyond.

UC San Diego is a part of you, and there are many ways you can continue to be a part of UC San Diego:

Support the campus fund of your choice

Run in the Triton 5K and support student scholarships

Call newly admitted students and share their Triton excitement

Perform community service projects in San Diego and alumni club regions

Keep learning alive with alumni events and enlightening lectures

Tell your story to Triton magazine