Meet the Freshmen
They arrived in September ready to conquer college. This year’s freshman class — born at the end of the last millennium — is among the best and brightest, as well as the most diverse. All told, UC Davis enrolled more than 9,000 new freshmen and transfer students in the fall (with total enrollment numbering nearly 38,000 that quarter). Here are a few of the newest Aggies.
When Lainey Hauschildt started high school, she wrote in her diary that she wanted to go to UC Davis.
“It’s been my dream school since I knew about college,” said the 19-year-old Sebastopol native.
The key factor? She wanted to bring her horse, Rio, a Holsteiner warmblood who had just been born at the time. (UC Davis is one of a few universities that offers on-campus boarding for horses.) Four years later, Hauschildt moved Rio into the UC Davis Equestrian Center, the day before moving into the Tercero residence halls herself.
Hauschildt’s passion for horses started early. Her mom bred show jumpers and got her a pony at 2. Hauschildt bred Rio’s mother. When he arrived, she convinced her mom to let her keep him. She agreed, as long as her daughter paid for everything.
“He’s taught me a lot about responsibility,” she said. “We’ve gone through so many ups and downs in training — many a tear shed. It’s been hard sometimes.”
Indeed, her responsible nature meant she worked hard to earn “a lot of financial aid” and is paying for what’s left with money she saved. She also continues to support Rio.
Academically, the first-generation student is taking classes in human rights, communication and Native American studies as she drills down her interests. She’s undeclared for now.
As with any passion, conversation circles back to horses. At UC Davis, Hauschildt said she looked forward to tapping into additional resources for training, and maybe in the future, competitions. She added she hopes to join a team with Rio.
“I have a lot of interest in things,” she said. “I hope to push myself to really explore to find out what is out there.”
As Jay Mcfarlane looked at colleges, she found UC Davis had the trifecta: a chemical physics major, a diverse student body and an environmentally friendly philosophy.
Still, when she arrived, the Chicago native went through a little culture shock.
“This is a lot of nature in comparison to Chicago,” said Mcfarlane, 18.
When she arrived, she hit the ground running. She attended the chemistry department’s open house, and joined several clubs, including BlackOUT, a support group for black LGBTQIA students, and the Queer Student Union. She is also a member of the First-Year Aggie Connections group for those who identify as LGBTQIA.
She said she appreciated the many resources available at UC Davis.
“Coming out with every life transition is rough,” she said. “But there is a lot of support here for first-gen students, for Latinas and for black people. There are things outside of academics here that are really important when you are trying to find your identity. I think I’ve gotten a lot more than I ever expected.”
Eventually, she said, she’d also like to get involved in some research projects.
Mcfarlane’s love of science goes back to fourth grade, when her teacher encouraged her to join his science club, where they conducted frequent experiments. “I thought that was really cool,” she said.
At her high school, Von Steuben Metro-politan Science Center, she enrolled in the scholar’s program for high-achieving students. She took honors and AP classes all four years. And she discovered a love of chemical physics.
“I just love that it’s all problem-solving. You can build on all the knowledge, and it’s about discovering new things and looking at things in different ways.”
Chethan Swanson has been taking tennis lessons since he was 8. Now that he’s at UC Davis, he’s learning how to give it his full attention while balancing academics at the same time.
“Even if you have a midterm or a paper, you have to be [at tennis practice],” Swanson, 19, said recently after one of his six days of practice in a week.
At his high school in Folsom, he could just skip a day’s competition if he needed to study. Now at UC Davis on a partial athletics scholarship, he has to keep up with his fellow Division I athletes both on the court and in the classroom.
“As a student-athlete, everyone around me is focused on academics,” he said. “It’s motivating to be around a lot of students who have a lot going on for them.”
UC Davis is teaching him a lot about time management — his first tournament was two days after instruction started, and he’s at morning workouts while his roommate is still asleep.
“It’s a good transition to adulthood,” he said. “It’s all up to you.”
Swanson is inspired by his uncle, a second father figure who played tennis at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Swanson recently traveled to that university for a tournament, and reveled in text-messaging photos of various spots around campus to his uncle.
As he settles into a routine at UC Davis, Swanson has some of his future already mapped out. He’s majoring in economics, which he aims to parlay into a career in finance or business, and he plans to pursue an MBA.
Erick Fierro already had all the information he needed to choose UC Davis — he grew up just 20 miles away in Vacaville.
“It was close to home, so I figured I could see old friends, but also I’m here to make new friends,” said Fierro, 18.
In fact, he said the transition has been relatively easy so far. He and a friend from home decided to be roommates. And he’s already picked a major: computer science. He said he hopes to channel an interest in video games to work in that industry after graduation.
Fierro proved his commitment to academics in high school, earning straight A’s all four years. It was enough to be named valedictorian, a title he shared with six other students.
“I just knew that I had to envision this goal in my head and keep working toward it,” said Fierro, who was also recognized for his PSAT scores by the National Hispanic Recognition Program of the College Board, which identifies academically exceptional students of Hispanic and Latino descent. He received scholarships from La Raza Lawyers Association and Knights of Columbus.
And though home is not so far away, his parents now live in Alexandria, Virginia, so that his dad, a senior master sergeant with the U.S. Air Force, could take a post at the Pentagon. An only child, Fierro said the change has accentuated his newfound autonomy.
“I was independent before, but my parents would do a lot for me,” he shared. “I really appreciated it, but then I came here and realized how much I have to do that I didn’t even think about.”
For Alice Hung, the independence of college is not new. The undeclared freshman grew up in Taipei, Taiwan, and lived at her junior high school for three years before moving to Shanghai to attend a competitive international high school. She lived with her mother, who was only home on the weekends.
“I don’t have homesickness,” Hung said. “I have experience with this kind of life.”
She came to UC Davis for its high rankings and moved sight unseen. When she arrived in September, she said she worried she would find an ugly expanse of agricultural land and cattle.
“I thought it would be boring — actually, it’s not.”
The 18-year-old described being self-conscious at home for not speaking English as fluently as her peers, but said she’s found her fellow Aggies to be welcoming. Within a month, she was close friends with a roommate she’d never met, and a bicyclist spotted her peering at a map and stopped to ask if she needed directions.
And though she’s still adjusting to the culture (a recent student protest inspired her to investigate why they were rallying), she expressed excitement over the prospect of making more of her own decisions. Sports were discouraged at her previous schools, which stressed academics, and she may start playing baseball again and join the badminton club.
Other interests include poetry (she self-published a collection of her poems while in junior high), psychology, art and a book she’s writing — a guide for Taiwanese students hoping to attend college abroad. As she pursues those myriad interests, she’ll remain undeclared, at least for now.
“I love too many subjects — it’s hard for me to choose only one.”
Tales of a transfer: George Liao
UC Davis is George Liao’s third university, and the last was nearly three decades ago.
Not every new Aggie follows the traditional path to college, and Liao is a prime example. Now 54, he said he’s confident his time at UC Davis will be more successful than previous stints at Humboldt State and San Jose State universities now that he can better manage his obsessive-compulsive disorder.
He worked as a computer programmer, bouncing between jobs where he began to notice the wide wealth gap in American society. A job upgrading software for a county district attorney’s office inspired him to think he could do something about it, and he now hopes to attend law school with a goal of working for nonprofits focused on defending individual rights or providing college-prep programs to low-income students.
He attended Diablo Valley College before transferring to UC Davis, where he’s majoring in English and immersing himself in the student experience, rooming with a 20-year-old in a student apartment and eating at the dining commons.
He’s optimistic, but keeping his expectations in check: “I think I’ll have a challenge ahead of me,” he said. “But I do see a path toward doing well.”