The Leadership Award Helps Golden Bears’ Leadership Shine

Mikela Lazari ’20 projected herself as a leader at the start of her undergraduate career and has been thriving as a leader ever since. She is a two-time recipient of the Cal Alumni Association’s Leadership Award, a one-year, merit-based scholarship that recognizes undergraduate students at UC Berkeley who demonstrate innovative, initiative-driven leadership. Since 1934, students have competed for the scholarship, forming a diverse and dynamic annual cohort of leaders whose work is relevant and inspiring.

“So often, people don’t realize they’re leaders, or they struggle to define what their leadership looks like. I have Cal alumni constantly reminding me that I am on the right path.”

In community college, Mikela was the president and student trustee of the Associated Students of West Valley College (ASWVC) and interned at the West Valley College President’s Office. During her tenure, Mikela reallocated the ASWVC budget, filled all vacant positions within the cabinet, and increased the school’s number of student senators from three to thirty-five. She also founded and became the president of the Persian Student Association and received the Trustee Award for her dedication to community service, activity, and improvement.

Soon after, Mikela steered her commitment to transferring to Cal and planning for it financially. Mikela immigrated with her family from Iran to the United States as Assyrian refugees when she was a child. From an early age, her family impressed upon her the importance of a first-class education. With this in mind, she undertook the responsibility of financing her Berkeley education in a way that made sense for her. This meant not solely taking out loans, but also finding the right scholarship opportunity.

The Leadership Award was decidedly the perfect fit. “Taking out loans is such a crippling feeling,” Mikela shares. “Receiving this scholarship was such a huge relief.” She adds, “It made me feel like my work was recognized, like: ‘Yes, I am a leader.’” Mikela won the Cal Googler Award, a Leadership Award endowment funded by UC Berkeley alumni employed at Google. She recalls, “When I found out, I called my dad to tell him. I remember he replied, ‘I’m proud of you,’ and I was so excited.”

As a leader on campus, Mikela has been selected for a second semester to be the coordinator of the “Amazoogle” course taught through the Sutardja Center of Entrepreneurship and Technology. She works in the Office of the President at the Associated Students of the University of California and serves as the co-chair of CAA’s student outreach committee for the Berkeley Career Network. Additionally, she is looking to form a chapter of the Iranian American Women’s Foundation before graduating. After she earns her bachelor’s degree in political science and political economy, Mikela plans to pursue a career in international law.

Mikela is grateful to CAA for acknowledging her on-campus leadership work. “So often, people don’t realize they’re leaders, or they struggle to define what their leadership looks like. I have Cal alumni constantly reminding me that I am on the right path.”


Mikela Lazari | Katherine Fiordalis, Cal Alumni Association

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