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Top Berkeley graduate shares tips, reflections

15 May 2001

By Kathleen Maclay and Kathleen Scalise, Public Affairs

Christine Ng received Berkeley's top student honor May 9 at Commencement Convocation when Chancellor Berdahl presented her with the University Medal, awarded each year to Berkeley's most outstanding graduating senior. Ng has a 3.99 grade point average and a stellar record of student leadership and service. In the video clips below, she talks about what it took to become Berkeley's top student and reflects on her experiences.

Men everywhere
Most of Ng's immediate classmates are men, typical in her major of civil and environmental engineering that at Berkeley is 70 percent male and 30 percent female. As president of the campus's branch of the Society of Women Engineers, Ng has tried to inspire young girls to become civil engineers through visits to local schools, where she does outreach work to "make engineering more alive," she says.

In the video clip below, Ng describes her initial apprehension about being a woman in engineering, and the relief she felt on discovering men welcomed her into the field.

Watch Video
University Medalist Christine Ng speaks of working in a male-dominated field. (
requires Quicktime 4 or higher)

A different take on diversity
Berkeley, a place known for its diversity, is many things to many people. Ng talks about the richness of the Berkeley experience as based on a "diversity of ideas." Students "come from all walks of life," she says, "but they come here to learn. People are very excited about that and I like the energy that the campus has."

Watch Video
Ng talks about the vitality of the Berkeley experience.
Requires Quicktime 4 or higher)

Childhood experiences

Ng, whose father is in banking and whose mother is a paralegal, came to Berkeley from Ramona Convent Secondary High School, student population 500, in Southern California. She had planned to be an architect until a high school biology teacher nudged her to enter an engineering design contest, and she found her niche. Here she talks about her childhood experiences, and time spent in school activities and daycare.

Watch Video
Ng reflects on her many hours spent in childcare and after-school activities. (
Requires Quicktime 4 or higher)

What the future holds

Ng is off to MIT in the fall for graduate school. She plans to combine technology with business and public policy, something she said most engineers are reluctant to do.

"Now the decisions are pretty much made by the bureaucrats, who don't understand the engineering," Ng said of projects to build roads, dams, water systems and other structures.

With her strong background in wise use of the environment, Ng has set herself a worthy goal — but one that may be even harder to achieve than being the top student at Berkeley: Convincing industry that what is good for the environment is also good for business.

graduation photo

Peg Skorpinski photos


University honors its top graduate:
Senior excels in civil and environmental engineering, a non-traditional field for women

(press release, 2 May)

Commencement Convocation: Web feature story and slide show
(commencement site, 10 May)

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