Hard work brings success for campus junior

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Faces of Berkeley: Nanxi Liu

Nanxi Liu has recently been named Miss Oakland, in addition to her role as a Nuclear Engineering and Business student and ASUC Executive Vice President at UC Berkeley.

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When UC Berkeley junior Nanxi Liu was 6 years old, her parents bought her a $100 piano.

Growing up in a low-income neighborhood as the daughter of two working-class immigrant parents in Fort Collins, Colo., she had a desire to learn a musical instrument and often found herself home alone. So she practiced.

Twelve years later, Liu was performing piano live on NBC after being chosen as one of the top eight finalists in the America's Junior Miss competition. Last December, a piece she composed herself the night before the Miss Oakland competition helped her win the crown.

Now, though her term as ASUC executive vice president is coming to an end, Liu will barely have a moment to breathe as she heads off to compete in the Miss California Scholarship program beginning June 21.

"It was pretty unexpected," Liu said of her tiara. "(I'm) very thankful and extremely honored to be given that privilege."

As Miss Oakland, Liu said she spends any free time volunteering for the Children's Miracle Network, hoping to further her intertwined goals as both pageant queen and student government executive.

Her goal of seeking "empowerment through education" colors not only her Miss Oakland activities but her background as well. After graduating from high school in Boulder, Colo. - where she also studied Chinese at the University of Colorado at Boulder - Liu finances her own college education.

"The mentality when I was growing up was 'if you're lucky you get to go to college' - and I hated that mentality," Liu said.

At UC Berkeley, Liu was elected last spring to fill the office of executive vice president - whose primary duty is to chair ASUC Senate meetings - despite the fact that she had never served in the senate.

"I think Nanxi is absolutely crazy, but in a good way most of the time," said CalSERVE Senator Courtney McDonald. "I'm always amazed at how much she is able to get done."

McDonald said that although Liu's inexperience in the senate provided for a tough transition at first, senators were able to adjust, though she added that "there's still a lot of room for improvement."

In addition to her major roles in the ASUC and Miss California competition, Liu is a member of both Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity and Gamma Phi Beta sorority. She is currently a junior pursuing a double major in nuclear engineering and business administration, and she aspires to someday practice law, manage her own business or run for public office.

"I skip a lot of class," she said. "But I try to be really efficient and very careful with how I manage my time ... for a lot of courses, I know which ones I can learn better studying by myself - during that time I could be doing something for the ASUC."

Additionally, a technology developed by Liu and other engineering students that would allow crimes to be reported via mobile phone is one of 12 finalists in the Big Ideas Information Technology for Society Competition, which will award Liu's project a grant if it is selected.

Hedy Chen, Liu's chief of staff, who has known her since 1996 when the two were neighbors in the same apartment complex, said she has been inspired by Liu's motivated spirit during their time in the ASUC.

"The moment she won, I was so excited for her because I knew that she's such an incredible person," Chen said. "She was going to do so many amazing things in the ASUC, so I was just excited that she was going to get that opportunity."

Though she said she has tried to accomplish much during her tenure and hopes to be respected as someone who tried to make a difference, Liu admitted the journey has not been easy.

"One of the challenges about being in any ... elected position in the ASUC is there's never that ending point where you say 'goal accomplished,'" Liu said. "If ever you feel at that point, something's gone wrong."


J.D. Morris is the lead student government reporter. Contact him at [email protected]

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