Picture of Kiana Okhovat sitting front of a pianoYear in School: 2nd

Hometown: Granite Bay, CA

Major: Political Science - Public Service

Minor/Concentration: Foreign Policy

On-campus leadership roles/positions/organizations: 
Pianist- Felice Piano Quintet

President and Founder- Aggies for Humanity
Development Chair- Davis Political Review

Chief Research Analyst- Gabe Griess for Senate

Publicity Chair- Davis Students for Gabe Griess

Why do you choose to be involved as a student leader?
As a freshman I was not very involved on campus. I was a pianist, so I spent most of my time in the music department, playing in my chamber ensemble the Felice Piano Quintet, which I still play in today. However, as much as I loved piano and music, I knew I didn’t want to be a concert pianist. So I spent my freshman year trying out different clubs and classes, until I finally discovered a major that peaked my interest: Political Science - Public Service. I immediately plunged in deep to maximize all the resources available at my disposal to get the most out of my major, starting with the UC Center Sacramento program, which landed me an internship with Senator Ben Allen’s office. That internship changed everything for me. During the summer of 2015, for four months I saw and experienced the power of public service firsthand, how every individual has it in them to make a difference in the world. It was around this time when the photo of that little refugee boy washed up on the Turkish shore went viral, making the Syrian refugee crisis international news. Feeling empowered from my internship, I knew that I had to, and could, do something to help. That led me to form Aggies for Humanity, founded in memory of the little refugee boy. AFH is a humanitarian club, its goal is to install a sense of world citizenship in our members, of understanding of human rights, of giving back, and doing our part to make a difference in the world. Its current mission is raise money and awareness for the Syrian refugees. I put my heart into AFH, and the club blossomed. I left no stone unturned, networking with other campus clubs, organizations and local business, and through that discovered more opportunities to get involved. UC Davis has an incredible student life, it always amazes me just how many ways there are to be active on campus. I’ve found that the more involved you get, the more activities you find to be involved with.

What have you learned about leadership through your work with others on campus?
Leadership is all about love, passion, and teamwork. Without passion, you can’t have leadership. Passion is the driving force that brings people together, it is absolutely vital and essential! You also have to be resilient and set a good example for your team, even during tough times. That’s a responsibility you have as a leader. Leadership is also all about teamwork. Teamwork is a byproduct of passion, and hence, effective leadership. The two go hand in hand. Success, in anything that you do, is inevitable if you take care of the base of your activity, which in this case, are the members that make up your organization. If you have a strong base, a strong team, that is nourished with love, passion, vision, and energy, together you can do anything.

Additionally, as the leader of Aggies for Humanity, I feel an important responsibility to be the best leader I can be for my board and club members, so everyday I try to learn more and grow in that capacity. In most of the activities I’m involved in, I have the leadership role, but I also deeply value the roles in which I’m not the main leader, such as my job as the Development Chair in Davis Political Review. Having that different perspective of being on the other side, being led, has also been important in my development as a leader.

What is your most memorable experience at UC, Davis? What is your favorite UC, Davis tradition?
Felice Piano Quintet’s first performance in the Chamber Ensembles Recital of Fall Quarter 2014.  That was what I like to refer to as our ‘debut performance,’ since FPQ was formed just three months before at the beginning of the quarter, when I and the four other student musicians had met each other for the first time. To finally give our first performance after months of rehearsing and team bonding was electric. The thrill and energy of that performance was unforgettable, it was a great start to the school year.

What is your favorite UC, Davis tradition?

Going to concerts at the Mondavi Center! I make sure to attend all the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra concerts, those are always a nice treat to attend with friends.

Also, the free Thursday noon concerts are a weekly routine now, they make for a great break from the grind of classes and studying.

What advice would you give to a student thinking about getting involved?
Get involved!  If you think you want to get involved, you should, otherwise you’re really missing out! It is a great way to discover yourself, learn about yourself, and grow and develop. Be fearless, this is what college is all about! It is also the most gratifying feeling to be surrounded by like-minded Aggies who share your interests, being involved on campus will be the most enriching part of your college experience. It gives you an invaluable education you will never get in a classroom. And the best part is, it is never too late to get started!

How does getting involved complement your studies?
My involvements are pretty much in line with my major. My concentration is foreign policy, and what I learn in class I can apply to Aggies for Humanity, and what I learn in my organization I can apply to my classes. When I started Aggies for Humanity, I knew very little about the complicated politics of the Middle East, let alone the devastating Syrian civil war and the tragic refugee crisis. Since I was raising money and awareness for this cause, I spent hours researching the conflict so I effectively communicate and explain to people why they should care about this crisis and donate, that was an education in and of itself. As a political science - public service major, I’m also working for a state senate campaign and this experience has great enhanced my understanding of politics. Being involved both on and off campus helps me be a better student.

What are your future plans and how has your involvment on campus prepared you for life after graduation?
I plan to go to law school and get involved in public service as an elected official. All of my activities have played a unique role in preparing me for my professional life. Aggies for Humanity, for one, is an accumulation of interests very close to my heart, it’s helped me grow and develop as an individual. My involvement in Gabe Griess’ campaign for California State Senate has given me a lot of hands-on, professional experience in a field directly related to my major, which I find invaluable. Having been a competitive pianist and playing in the Felice Piano Quintet has played the biggest role in developing my stage presence and public speaking skills, since I had to get used to performing in front of large crowds from a young age. My role as Development Chair in Davis Political Review also taught me a lot about teamwork and fundraising, which is an essential skill.

All of my involvements have allowed me to explore my interests and have played an important role in shaping me as a student and individual. I think it’s great that college gives you an opportunity to grow and develop skills that we will inevitably use in our lives after graduation while we have a safety net of  incredible mentors and peers around us to help us along the way.

Fun Facts

  • Role Model:  My mom and grandmother. My will to make a difference in people’s lives and sense of humanitarian responsibility is something that my mother and grandmother have always instilled in me, often by their own examples. My involvement in philanthropy and public service is a direct extension of their values.
  • Favorite Quote/Motto: ““Be a force of nature.” These are the words I live by. In whatever you do, be unstoppable. Simple as that!
  • Hobbies: Laughing, traveling, reading, performing, going to concerts, trying new restaurants, going to the movies, spending time with my family and friends.