New ASUC President Teddy Liaw spearheads numerous projects to bring students together

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs


Caren Horstmeyer

ASUC President Teddy Liaw. Noah Berger photo.

08 NOVEMBER 00 | As ASUC president, Teddy Liaw holds the top student government office on campus. But it wasn't long ago that his life hovered near rock bottom.

As an unruly youngster living in southern California, he stole, got into fights, associated with gang members and, basically, made a conscious effort to get into trouble.

"I had friends killed in drive-by shootings," said Liaw. "I was really close to tossing my life away."

Tired of the path he was headed down, Liaw decided to turn his life around. By his freshman year in high school, he was class president.

"Life is too valuable, you can't take it for granted," said Liaw of his transformation from punk to model student. "It's important to do as much as possible while you still can. You never know when you're going to die."

Liaw's early experiences have given him a street-smart edge that belies his tender 21 years and seems incongruous with his stature as a highly successful Berkeley student.

His "do it while you can" attitude has helped make his ASUC presidency one of the most productive in years.

"I'm not a politician; I don't see the presidency as a stepping stone to future political aspirations," he explained. "I'm a doer, my thing is to plan projects and work to make sure they get done."

Indeed, Liaw, who is majoring in business and ethnic studies, has nearly 40 projects lined up for his one-year term, compared to 10 for last year's president.

His initiatives focus on bringing students together. "We're a very diverse group, but we all have one thing in common: we're all Berkeley students."

One of his first projects was organizing a leadership conference for Berkeley students who head up campus clubs and organizations. The gathering provided training and networking opportunities for nearly 130 student leaders.

To promote school spirit, Liaw arranged for the purchase of a large-screen TV for the Bears Lair, so that students can gather to watch away games of Cal's athletic teams. This is the first time a campus venue has been created for this purpose.

The Ambassador Program ensures that each of Berkeley's 450 student groups has an assigned ASUC representative to provide support, assisting them with such tasks as grant writing, public relations and event planning.

Liaw has also launched a Cal Lodge case competition, which challenges students to create a marketing plan to revive the ASUC-owned lodge in the Sierras, which has lost money for the last 10 years.

For the spring, Liaw is organizing a multi-cultural event that brings all the ethnic student groups together to celebrate their music, dance, traditions and cuisine.

A strong supporter of affirmative action, Liaw has backed efforts to get the program reinstated on campus.

"Berkeley is about diversifying education," he said. "Here, I've had the opportunity to build relationships with Native Americans, African Americans, gays, lesbians, Hispanics and others, helping me gain a better perspective. We need to preserve that."

"Teddy is deeply committed to building community on campus," said Dean of Students Karen Kenney. "The projects that he has initiated demonstrate that he is putting his values into practice."

While Liaw is quite the dynamo, he doesn't work alone. Nearly 200 student volunteers and interns "are the ones who really make things happen in terms of output," he said.

Before becoming a candidate for president, Liaw says he had little respect for the ASUC. "Like a lot of other students, I saw it as a politically fractious group that talked a lot, but did very little," said Liaw, who prior to his ASUC position was president of the Asian American Association and Residence Hall Assembly. "But former president and friend Patrick Campbell had me come to his office to show me around. Once there, I realized the office was capable of much more."

Regarding his legacy as president, Liaw wants "to re-engineer the office so that it is more professional and serves the campus as a true student resource."

Upon graduation, Liaw plans to continue his mission of service in the field of non-profit work. "When I die," he said, "I want to have touched as many lives as possible."


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