#IamUCI – Class of 2024 showcases stories from the graduating class of each of UC Irvine’s schools. Amid the challenges of this past school year, Laken worked hard to push boundaries, pursue her dreams, make her debut in the workforce and advocate for change.

Here is her story:

Laken Race, Class of 2024It was in her fourth-year preceptorship course that Laken Race knew critical care nursing was the ideal career for her. During the 120 hours of direct patient care under the supervision of a licensed, experienced nurse, she began to analyze clinical decisions and evaluate nonclinical aspects of care such as emotional support and social impacts. “This experience validated that the path I had chosen was perfect for me and that all the skills I have developed over the past four years have prepared me to take on my role as a nurse,” Race says. After graduation, she will sit for the nursing board exam to earn her license and then apply to residency programs with a specialty in critical care.

What advice would you give to a student starting their academic career at UC Irvine?

For students just starting their academic journey, I encourage them to choose something they love and feel passionate about, set goals, reevaluate these goals along the way, surround themselves with people who support their pursuit, and put their heart and soul into all they do. All the classes, hours of study, tests, assignments and outside commitments will be overwhelming, but having enthusiasm for what you’re learning and being able to check off each milestone will be extremely motivating.

Who at UC Irvine has been an influence or made a significant impact on you?

My research mentors have made a significant impact on me. I first became involved in the UCI Family Caregiver Study in 2022, and I’ve learned the value and importance of conducting research in the community and the logistics of running such a project. More importantly, I found a team to support me, listening to my academic trials and tribulations and celebrating my accomplishments. I am forever grateful for their leadership, guidance and willingness to help me pursue my goals. One day, I hope to be an equally great mentor and support students navigating their journey into nursing, research or any other endeavor.

What advice would you give your first-year self?

I would tell her with confidence that I do belong at UC Irvine and that I am more than competent enough to earn my BSN and become a nurse. I spent far too much time doubting my performance, comparing myself to others, and questioning whether or not I was good enough to accomplish my goals. Looking back, I was smart enough, hard-working enough, dedicated enough and determined enough to reach and exceed my goals. I should have worried less, because I excelled in all that I put my mind and energy toward, and I made it!

What makes you a proud Anteater?

Hearing the accomplishments and knowing the impact my peers and alumni have made in their local communities and throughout the world makes me proud to be an Anteater. When I wear my UC Irvine gear off campus, so many people initiate positive conversations with me about the people they know who graduated from here. These interactions make me proud that I had the opportunity to attend an academic institution that brings goodness to the world.

“I’ve known Laken since she was a freshman, and she has become an integral part of our research team. Her personal experience as a family caregiver for her late grandmother has been a great motivator for her involvement, and our participants – who are family caregivers of persons with dementia – are always pleased to meet her, willing to open up about their struggles, and grateful for the information and support she shares. Our role is difficult, but she meets every challenge with compassion and the will to find the best solution for each case. Her maturity and thoughtful, kind attitude have made her a trusted sounding board for me and the other staff.”

– Eilleen Sabino-Laughlin, research project manager of UCI Family Caregiver Study