“If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life,” says Sherwynn Umali, Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor and Chief of Staff, UCI Student Affairs, and Associate Dean of Students, UCI Student Life and Leadership. In an informal discussion over lunch, Campuswide Honors Program (CHP) students engaged with her as she explained how important it is to find one’s driving force, and to “never stop hustling.”

This event was part of the Campuswide Honors Program’s Lunch with Leadership series, which brings together alumni, community leaders, and CHP students, and gives students the opportunity to network, ask questions, and hear great career tips.

Umali introduced herself by sharing some of her professional accomplishments, which involve past roles as Director of Campus Organizations, and Assistant Director in the Cross-Cultural Center at UCI. She then centered in on her personal story, such as her background as an immigrant from a low income family. This motivated her to succeed in college, and in her current role, to support undocumented students through the DREAM center. “Figure out how to tell your own story,” she advised, “so that you can be heard.”

Umali continued to grab the students’ attention by explaining that she became Associate Dean of Students by building relationships, creating community, and challenging herself to say “yes” to challenges that intimidated her. As she motivated CHP students to do the same, she also emphasized the power of replacing “I have to” with “I get to” and its effects on bringing about positivity. Dispelling the negative perceptions surrounding millennials, she affirmed that “millennials and Generation Z are going to make the changes in the world that need to be made.” “Get a newspaper and circle all of the things that make you mad. Create a job to help solve that problem,” she advised.

After Umali’s presentation, students asked her why she chose to work at UCI. Umali explained that it was where she grew up, where she felt comfortable, and where she found students that love to be involved. Psychology and Social Behavior majors were curious to know about how this major benefited her in finding jobs. “I think about how people interact and behave with each other,” she replied. It’s no wonder that Umali has such an ease in holding conversation and building relationships with different people.

Continuing to stimulate CHP students in discussion, Umali reminded them to recognize the hard work that they put into achieving each success, and to not “let anyone get in the way of [their] brilliance.”  It’s not about what you do or don’t do, she told a CHP freshman. “It’s about how you’re getting things done . . . You’re going to learn something from a good experience or a bad experience.”

Closing up, Umali left the students with a powerful message: “live your present as if it were your future.”