Transfer Student Wins University Medal, First Time in Award's History


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When UC Berkeley's top graduating senior Josh Biddle walks the stage to receive his diploma this Sunday, he will be capping off a saga that has taken him through the jungles of Latin America and the classrooms of community college.

The 28-year-old integrative biology major with a 4.0 GPA will be recognized as the top graduating senior when he receives the University Medal and $2,500 at Sunday's Commencement Convocation ceremony. Biddle bested four competitors for the title and is the first community college transfer student to win the award since it was established over 139 years ago in 1871.

He will be attending UC San Francisco School of Medicine in the fall.

Born in New York and raised in San Rafael, Calif., Biddle started his college career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison but dropped out after one semester.

Soon after returning home to live with his parents, he moved to Boulder, Colo., and participated in AIM House, a program geared for young adults transitioning from rehabilitation centers and treatment facilities. It was there he said he found a special purpose within the program and spent most of the next two years there.

After traveling to various parts of the United States, Mexico and Guatemala, Biddle ended up back in the Bay Area. He said he decided to go back to school because of the prompting of his grandmother, who is now 100 years old and will be in attendance at his graduation.

He was enrolled in classes at the College of Marin for three and a half years before applying to UC Berkeley. He was rejected twice before being accepted.

Biddle said after he was accepted to the campus, he still had doubts about whether he would be able to compete academically. He said he credits his teachers at College of Marin for encouraging him to pursue the opportunity.

"My professors really encouraged me to take on this (challenge) of going to UC Berkeley," he said. "I was not sure whether or not I would succeed. Knowing that Berkeley is a relaxing place with world-class researchers and smart students made me want to go here."

In order to be considered for the award, students must have a GPA of 3.96 or higher and have completed 42 units of class for a letter grade. Last year's winner, Emma Shaw Crane, had a 4.0 GPA, majored in interdisciplinary studies, minored in global poverty and practice and spoke fluent Spanish as well as conversational Arabic.

Biddle said he feels a sense of pride and responsibility knowing he is the first community college transfer student to win the award.

"I think that's the most important part of this award for me," he said. "I take that responsibility very seriously."

Biddle said his most memorable moments at UC Berkeley have been defined by the students and professors he has met in his two years as an integrative biology major.

"Participating in the Biology Scholars Program was the highlight (of my time at Berkeley)," he said.

Despite the effort Biddle said it took to become the top graduating senior, he said he will always encourage transfer students to apply and try to become a part of the campus.

"I would absolutely encourage transfer students to go to UC Berkeley," he said. "I would encourage them to take the challenge and apply."


Contact Kelly Strickland at [email protected]

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