The Campuswide Honors Program (CHP) welcomed UCI alumna Jennifer Friend, CEO of Project Hope Alliance, to share her personal story and professional trajectory with honors students during last month’s Lunch with Leadership event.  The new quarterly series provides CHP students the opportunity to enjoy an intimate hosted lunch and engage in discussion with an established leader in the community.

“It was wonderful that Ms. Friend, who is a very active supporter of the university, made the time to share her story with CHP students,” said Ted Wright, faculty director of the Campuswide Honors Program and professor of cognitive sciences.  “She went from growing up in a family of six that was often homeless in Orange County to become a partner in a large law firm where she managed a team of litigators as she represented an array of national and international clients.  She then felt a calling to leave that career to become the CEO of Project Hope Alliance.”  

Project Hope Alliance is a nonprofit organization which aims to end the cycle of homelessness through educating and empowering homeless children in Orange County.  Currently, the organization supports more than 400 children attending over 90 different schools in 26 cities.

In addition to serving as Project Hope Alliance’s CEO, Ms. Friend is also the President-Elect of UCI’s Alumni Association Board of Directors, and on the School of Social Ecology’s Field Study Advisory Board and the Chancellor’s Steering Committee for OC Working Together.

Ms. Friend understands firsthand the challenges that college students face as they begin to define who they are and who they hope to become personally and professionally.  During the luncheon, she emphasized the importance of embracing new opportunities and experiences that may not follow or align with one’s original plan.

“Ms. Friend’s story is both inspirational and amazing.  It is also a great example of the important truth that the path from school through a career rarely is straight and predictable,” said Ted Wright.  “Of particular interest in her talk was her invitation to CHP students to get involved with the Project Hope Alliance, as volunteers or even interns.  She also indicated an interest in helping students build thesis projects around the work of Project Hope.”

The CHP is excited to provide honors students the opportunity to connect and network with a variety community leaders such as Jennifer Friend or Charles Martin, CEO Chief Investment Officer of Mont Pelerin Capital, who spoke to students during fall quarter.  The CHP looks forward to organizing spring 2017’s Lunch with Leadership event and hopes it will continue to improve and develop as a series.

About the Campuswide Honors Program: Founded in 1988, the CHP is an academic program dedicated to promoting high standards of scholastic excellence and personal growth by combining the qualities of a liberal arts college with the unique opportunities offered by a major research university.  For more on the CHP, visit

For more on Project Hope Alliance, visit