Sitting in the offices of Associated Students of UC Irvine, Reza Zomorrodian recalls what first attracted him to the UCI campus. He was touring University of California schools and considering a few private colleges on the East Coast – trying to decide where he’d spend the next four years of his life.
“I knew UC Irvine was a good school, but it wasn’t necessarily my first choice,” he says. “But I was sold after my first visit. The environment was so welcoming, and students seemed so engaged in a variety of activities, such as research, Greek life and student government.”
Zomorrodian, a senior majoring in political science and sociology, with a minor in conflict resolution, is president of Associated Students of UCI. He joined the organization as a freshman on its legislative council, where he served until fall 2013. He has thrived academically and socially on the campus of more than 28,000 students.
“UCI is always ranked as one of the happiest schools in the country, and … having an anteater as a mascot is a great selling point,” Zomorrodian says. “We don’t have the ivory tower feeling of a lot of East Coast schools, and I think that’s a good thing.”
The former resident of Carlsbad is given to wearing collared shirts, shorts and preppy Sperry Top-Siders – what he calls his “uniform” – although he has been known to don more formal attire for his regular meetings with Chancellor Howard Gillman.
But don’t let the casual wardrobe or sunny demeanor fool you. Zomorrodian has ambitious plans as head of the student body and intends to make the most of his year in office. His major policy focus is the 60 by 16 campaign, which aims to register 60 percent of undergraduates to vote by the 2016 presidential election. Currently, about 20 percent are registered.
“I love to see student activism,” Zomorrodian says. “We need students to mobilize and vote for candidates and policies that support education. We need students to urge their parents and community members to vote for pro-education policies.”
Education is big in his family. His parents left their native Iran after the revolution in 1979 to pursue academic opportunities in the United States. His father is a civil engineer and his mother a social worker. His older sister is completing graduate work in public health at UCLA.
Zomorrodian hopes to earn a law degree and a Master of Public Policy and continue his work advocating on behalf of students.
Coming from a supportive, academically inclined family shaped his ambitions, as did one particular extracurricular activity in high school.
“I was a member of the speech and debate team, and it impacted my life forever,” Zomorrodian says. “It gave me confidence in my public speaking skills and paved the way for my involvement on campus.”
Along with his duties at ASUCI, he serves as a resident adviser in Mesa Court student housing, where he’s responsible for more than 80 students. Zomorrodian has also been a peer educator with Campus Assault Resources & Education, focusing on awareness and prevention of sexual assault and relationship violence.
He’s grateful to be making his mark during such an auspicious period in UCI’s history.
“Right now is the most unique time to be here on campus,” Zomorrodian says. “There’s so much momentum with the 50th anniversary, Obama’s visit at commencement and now the appointment of Chancellor Gillman, who will just continue this forward momentum.”