Courtesy of Christopher Klotz Professional soccer player Christopher Klotz '06 is surrounded by Nigerian youths he coached during the 2008 offseason as part of Missionary Athletes International.

UCI grads make good

Alumni have found niches in nonprofit work, pro sports, Hollywood, law, TV and business

All those congratulatory cards arriving in UC Irvine graduates’ mailboxes this week make the future sound so rosy – follow your dreams, reach for the stars, change the world and (yikes!) get a job.

If those sentiments aren’t quite as inspiring as Hallmark hoped, consider this from the National Association of Colleges & Employers: “The job market for the college class of 2011 looks positive in all regions. Overall, employers taking part in NACE’s Job Outlook 2011 Fall Preview survey expect to hire 13.5 percent more new grads from the class of 2011 than they hired from the class of 2010. By region, employers in the West project the biggest increase compared with last year.”

More good news comes from Anteater alums who – even amid slow job growth and the economic downturn – have found innovative ways to make their marks on the world. Read on for their stories, and congratulations, class of 2011!

Rebecca Westerman Hendrickson ’08: The Dalai Lama Scholar for 2007-08 majored in art history and used her interest in color and creativity to design the Peace Flag Project in Aldrich Park. After graduation, she did volunteer work and internships, one of which led to a job offer. “I was assisting with program development for a nonprofit based in Pasadena that teaches peace to at-risk youths using an innovative curriculum,” Hendrickson says. “I loved that position and felt I couldn’t have dreamed up a better job, which is not how many recent graduates get to feel.”

When she moved back to Irvine for her husband’s education, though, the realities of a tough job market hit home. Hendrickson spent seven months working night shifts at Mother’s Market in Costa Mesa to pay the bills, while still doing internships and volunteer work to generate job prospects. Sometimes that meant 18-hour days.

But it worked. When the Center for Living Peace Orange County opened its doors in University Center last year, she was one of two full-time staffers hired. The organization was UCI’s partner this year in the Living Peace Series that brought actress Charlize Theron, business tycoon Sir Richard Branson and the Dalai Lama to campus.

Hendrickson’s advice to graduates: “Be resourceful. Get your foot in the door any way you can, even if it’s through an unpaid internship. Don’t search for the perfect job. Just stay busy and involved, and a job will find you. Be patient, and stay brave.”

Christopher Klotz ’06: He played four years of soccer at UCI while earning a sociology degree, along with All-Big West and Scholar-Athlete honors, and then signed with North Carolina’s Charlotte Eagles in 2006.

“For the last five years, I’ve been fortunate enough to play professional soccer,” Klotz says, “and during the offseason, I’ve been able to work with Missionary Athletes International in Africa – mainly in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. One main goal there is to help local churches train coaches and leaders to use sports as a tool for ministry. Soccer provides a way to build relationships, invest in the lives of people, and encourage them in all circumstances.

“While in Africa, the Charlotte Eagles play professional matches and organize soccer clinics connected to the churches we’re working with. The team also helps meet basic needs, providing medical care, clothing and other resources. My time at UCI helped develop my vision of how I can best serve others.”

Jonathan Eusebio ’95: With a degree in biology, he eschewed labs for locations – film locations, to be specific. Eusebio was the fight coordinator on “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” and “Iron Man 2.” Last year, he spoke with the Los Angeles Times about how his academic background prepared him for his career in Hollywood. “Biology doesn’t relate to film, but school teaches you how to interact with different types of people, be disciplined and meet deadlines,” Eusebio said. “School gives you those skills necessary to get things done.”

Nazanin Boniadi ’03: Actress and official spokeswoman for Amnesty International USA, she graduated with honors from UCI’s School of Biological Sciences after winning the competitive Chang Pin-Chun undergraduate research award for her work on heart transplant rejection and cancer. Boniadi has a recurring role on CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother” and had small parts in “Charlie Wilson’s War” and “Iron Man.”

Ismael Herrera ’07: A UCI graduate in Chicano/Latino studies and sociology, he went on to earn a master’s at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and served for a year as a Polanco Fellow in Sacramento. Herrera is now program manager in the Office of Community & Economic Development at California State University, Fresno and last year was elected one of the youngest-ever members of the Mendota, Calif., school board.

Shahrzad Radbod ’08: She earned a political science degree, with honors, at UCI and now is preparing to graduate from Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley. Radbod will then start her law career as a patent attorney – exactly as she had planned to do since she was a freshman at UCI – with Cisco Systems.

Allen Ho ’07 and Russell Bush ’08: The two film & media studies graduates are enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin’s film production program. Ho premiered his documentary “Parachute Kids” – about upper-middle-class Asian immigrants leaving their children in American suburbs while they work overseas – at the 2011 South by Southwest Film Festival in March. Bush has launched an online fundraising campaign, “The Vulture Project,” for a documentary to be shot in Tibet.

Windell Middlebrooks ’05: He graduated with an M.F.A. in drama from the Claire Trevor School of the Arts and is probably best known for his role as an affable, avuncular deliveryman in Miller High Life commercials. Middlebrooks recently won his first recurring role in a TV series, playing Dr. Curtis Brumfield on ABC’s “Body of Proof.”

Other sports successes: Spencer Thompson ’11, who earned an economics degree at UCI, plays professional soccer with the Portland Timbers. Patrick Sanders ’08, another economics graduate, plays pro basketball for Australia’s Sydney Kings. Ross Schraeder ’05, a sociology grad, plays pro basketball for CB Tarragona, in Spain, and blogs about it here.

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