Congratulations 2023 Graduates

A note on Essig’s class of 2023 by Sloane Sim, Media Specialist.

As the Essig Museum’s class of 2023 shed their school days and molt into their “adult” lives, I want to share what makes the Essig special. When I joined the museum in March of 2022 I was close to graduation and yet had no idea what I truly wanted to do if I wanted to do anything at all. Ambition always felt like an immutable trait I lacked. It felt like I was destined to float along meaningless, barely surviving and barely living, envious of those who had the drive and passion to chase after anything. But after spending over a year at the Essig, I realize that while ambition is prefaced by desire, it is predicated by the belief one is capable. This community has taught me that I am capable, not by platitudes, but by showing me that who I am is enough. My coworkers, who I’ve spent perhaps too much time interrogating on their personal lives, have given me so much to hope for. Everyday I came in as my true self and everyday I felt like I belonged as we laughed, whispered, and cried about our hopes, our doubts, and our pain. While my coworkers gave me the space to feel peace and belonging, Executive Director Pete Oboyski gave me the opportunity to believe in myself by entrusting me with this position. I have something I want to chase after now thanks to my community. As my friends from class of 2023 depart, I want to say that I am very proud of them. I hope they remember that peace and belonging exist outside of the museum too, for they are truly lovable. And I hope that in moments of doubt and defeat, they remember that their strengths have carried them thus far, and that they can trust themselves to grow and overcome life’s difficulties. Everything they need is already inside, they only need to nurture themselves. Finally, here are some words from our amazing class of 2023. 

Maya Ogasawara

“Before I became a part of the Essig family, I didn’t have many friends, so I would spend most of my time alone in my apartment with my dog. A lot of my peers talked about how they felt like they belonged, whether it be to a friend group, club, or sports team. I’ve never experienced that in college until I found the Essig. I finally felt like I had a home where I belonged. 

I first got involved with the Essig Museum in the Fall of 2021 when I was scrolling on the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program’s website looking for research positions that would suit my interests. There, I found the Essig’s Garden Project.  The Fall 2021 semester was my first time back from taking a semester off of school due to mental health reasons. Every time I was at the Essig, I felt so refreshed being around so many encouraging and friendly people and being taught by such a passionate supervisor; and for the first time in a while, I was finally excited about something.

The next semester (spring 2022), I also became one of the Walkingstick Wranglers, which has been, without a single doubt, the coolest thing I have ever done in my life. Taking care of those stick insects was a gateway into my love for bugs, and in the semesters following I was able to take Spider Biology and Insect Behavior to learn more about them. Being surrounded by bug lovers solidified my love for insects, so I joined the Entomology Club and eventually had the honor of leading as co-president of the club. 

In Fall 2022, I became a part of the Lepidoptera and Hymenoptera digitization team. I was always excited to go to work because that’s where my best friends were. I had a boss who actually cared about me and my well-being and took the time to ask how I was doing, which is something not a lot of people can say. Being able to call the Essig Museum my home is my – as the kids would say it – biggest flex. The vast majority of the population is disgusted by insects and wouldn’t understand why I love working with them every day. But, if they took the time to learn about them, they would realize how truly amazing and important insects are to human life.

I truly love the Essig Museum and everyone that I work with. I never want to leave because of them. If I could work here forever, I would, just so I could see these amazing people every day. I was excited to graduate and move back home to Hawai’i, but then I realized I could no longer go to the Essig Museum every day to see the people I love so much. I love the community we created here in the museum; I have never experienced anything quite like it. I came to the Essig for research experience, but I stayed because of all the amazing people that I met here. 

After I graduate, I plan to go to medical school to become a doctor. Because of what I learned at the Essig, I hope to incorporate insects into my career or, at the very least, continue to educate myself about insects through collection and observation.

I’m not sure whose quote this is, but I found it very fitting: “You are a sculpture. You are shaped by both the people who chipped you and by those who took the time to carve you.” I sincerely believe that every single person who has stepped foot in the Essig Museum during my time here has truly carved me and my college experience and I am forever grateful for them. I love you all, and I will never forget the countless wonderful memories I have made here. #GoBearsAndBugs”

Mónica Yup Chinchilla

“The Essig has been a big part of my academic career. I was an outdoorsy kid who liked bugs but that interest faded over time as I became busy with school. When I started working here, Pete would come in and tell us all about the insects we were imaging. So much of that information turned into curiosity about insects and I got hooked into entomology and natural history. I ended up joining the Entomology club here at Berkeley and taking an entomology class as well as other ecology and natural history courses. All of these experiences made me especially interested in doing field work in ecology/natural history positions. 

Whenever I think about the Essig, I think about all the people I’ve met there. My coworkers have become my beloved friends. My first couple of years at Cal were really rough. When I started working at the Essig, I never imagined that it would become my favorite place at Cal. Here I had found a community that always provided me with a safe space where I could be myself. I think that to my friends and I, the Essig is not just our place of work, but also a place where you can come in and feel appreciated. I am always thankful that I was able to meet so many wonderful people in these last couple of years. We’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together, we’ve united forces to pester Pete once in a while. They’ve provided me with comfort during difficult times and I truly appreciate our small team. There are no words that can describe my immense love for this community and I wish that this special connection can be passed on to future Essig teams. 

Special thanks to Maya and Sloane for keeping me alive and feeding into my silliness. Thank you to the digitization team for sharing snacks and tea throughout the semester. And thank you to Pete for feeding us and giving us a safe space to be ourselves.”

Anna Hatzakis

“I got involved with the Essig upon transferring to Berkeley. I had attempted to preserve dead hawk moths and silk moths when I lived on a farm in Pennsylvania for a year, so I was really excited to see the Sulawesi project while going through the URAP listings. I started out as a research apprentice preparing Indonesian Lepidoptera and it quickly became my favorite part of the school week. I found it so mesmerizing to discover all the intricate color patterns displayed on the wings of the specimens! I was later hired to digitize bees and moths, but also ended up being assigned special projects like identifying East Coast bumble bees and assisting in creating museum displays.

I was initially inclined to study botany, but after finding that the work I was doing in the Essig to be such a happy medium between art and science, I became inspired to pursue a career as a museum curator. I want to continue on a path conducting research that will help prevent declines among imperiled pollinators while also preparing and identifying specimens, designing displays, and communicating with the general public about insects.

The Essig feels like my second home at this point. I have so much fun chatting with my coworkers and meeting all the scientists who come through to complete various projects. I think the type of people who end up in the insect realm tend to be the most humorous and outlandish — there are a lot of hobby artists and free thinkers in our group, so never a dull moment!

I really love everyone I work with and am always excited to see who is in Essig on any given day. I have had so many meaningful conversations, but also a lot of laughs with the digitizing/preparation crew. Pete and Roberta have been very kind and helpful — not only answering the endless questions I have about insects, but offering life advice too! I truly cherish my time in the Essig.”

Stanley Quiros

“Working at the Essig has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at Cal. Trying to figure out what area of environmental science I would like to pursue, the Essig has helped me develop a better understanding of my insect friends but has also helped me get a better understanding of my passion for ecology and the direction I’m aiming for as I leave Berkeley, hoping to work for a year and then pursue a graduate degree! The community here has got to be one of the most welcoming I’ve encountered at Cal, and our shared interests are so specific, maybe there are more reasons why we all get along. The Essig hive is a lively one!”