Dhanika Pineda
Class of 2023 graduate Dhanika Pineda, B.A.s in literary journalism and English. (Steve Zylius/UCI)

I normally start these profiles with the person’s name, then something that embodies their goals and how they’ve worked to achieve them at UCI. Even though these blurbs are short, they home in on each student’s unique story. My name is Dhanika Pineda, and I’m a storyteller graduating in June with degrees in literary journalism and English from UCI’s School of Humanities. As a student staff writer in UCI Strategic Communications, I’ve written countless feature stories on my amazing fellow Anteaters and the community resources available to us. This profile, my own, is the last of seven I’ve written for #IamUCI 2023. Working on a project like this always gives me perspective; these students bare their entire college education experiences to me, and it’s my job to craft a window of words to let everyone share a glimpse of them. How does one accurately fit an Anteater’s life, ambition and accomplishments in 200 words or less? After four years of training with some of the best wordsmiths around, I’ve learned that it’s a sign of a good writer to realize that words are rarely enough.

But sometimes they are. My proudest moment as an Anteater was when I, then a resident advisor, received a card from one of my residents on the day I moved out of the Middle Earth dorms. The card was a handwritten thank-you note, and in it were the words “thank you for inspiring me.” That resident went on to join the literary journalism program and the campus newspaper, and every time I see her work, I’m proud to have been a small part of helping someone find their passion.

My time at UCI has prepared me to enter the ever-changing landscape of journalism. My professors, especially Erika Hayasaki, taught me lessons that I will continue to use even outside journalism, in my everyday life.

“Dhanika has always been a standout student journalist at UCI – incredibly hardworking, someone who comes up with excellent story ideas, runs the campus newspaper and is deeply devoted to truth-telling. But my most memorable moment with Dhanika happened in Washington, D.C. She was interning at Smithsonian for the summer, and I was visiting for a book panel at the American Library Association conference. Between panels, we walked around the trade show floor, picking up free books. She told me about her internship, her education, her research and writing, her adventures in D.C. I remember feeling in awe of her maturity and so impressed by how much she had accomplished already. She still had another year of college to go. But I knew in that moment that whatever path she took next, wherever she landed in the future, she would continue to let her sharp instincts guide her. She would always find her way.”

– Erika Hayasaki, associate professor of literary journalism and English

I found opportunities to further my storytelling skills as a writer for Strategic Communications and as editor of the New University, UCI’s campus newspaper. I’m proud to be leading the paper through a time of revolutionary change inspired by the ethical values instilled in me through the literary journalism program. It has always been clear to me that words are a form of power. My goal as a journalist is to share the stories that go untold and give power back to communities that have been pushed to the margins. As a Filipina daughter of immigrants, I especially want to do that for my own community. This summer, I’m looking forward to doing that through a Voices fellowship from the Asian American Journalists Association and as the first news and features editor for Kapwa magazine, a Filipino cultural publication. My freshman self would not believe where I am now. If I could speak to her, I would tell her to slow down and enjoy this chapter of our story. It came to an end too quickly.