Eva Yguico is a fourth year Philosophy major at UCLA. She is the president of the Philosophy Club, a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, and does ski racing with the UCLA snow team. Passionate about racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, Eva intersects the disciplines of law and philosophy in her research, and learns about the justice system first-hand from her internships at various superior courts in California. Read below to find out how she chose to study philosophy, how she found herself attending UCLA as a third year transfer, and advice she would give to her past self as a first year in college.
Why Philosophy? Why UCLA?
Eva’s college career took her down paths she never anticipated, and with each leap of faith she’s found herself learning more about herself and her passions. Eva started her freshman year at Cal State Los Angeles, and was considering pursuing a degree in STEM because she had always been good at math and science. However, she was never invested in it the same way she was with english, political science, and later philosophy. At the end of her freshman year, feeling pressured to declare a major, but somewhat unsure about her future path, she opened up the degree catalog, closed her eyes, and pointed at random – to philosophy. “It was a very low point in me trying to plan out my future,” she reflects. She then declared a major in philosophy, enrolled in 3 philosophy classes, and began her commitment to the humanities. The next quarter, she fell in love with her new discipline; building from philosophical foundations such as symbolic logic, ethics, skepticism and rationality, she was propelled into philosophy; “I hit the ground running for sure.”
After two years at Cal State LA, Eva was admitted to both UCLA and UC Berkeley. This was a difficult decision to have to make, so she came to a retention event put on by the Pilipino Transfer Student Partnership (PTSP) on UCLA’s campus. “They were so great and amazing; I was in love, so I SIR-ed that same day. I was leaning towards Berkeley before then…[But PTSP was] just so warm. I met so many people that first day who were not only doing amazing in their academics and professional development, but they were also just really fun people to be around. That’s really something that I want to work on myself. So, one of my friends from that event turned to me – he was also thinking of going to Berkeley – we talked to each other and we agreed we really think we could do well here. Where they’re at is where we eventually want to be….I see all the people who were at that retention event also, and they are [now] the ones running the organization, and it brings so much love to my heart.”
Internships & Research
The summer after her freshman year, Eva interned for a judge in a criminal courtroom at Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown LA. This was her first internship, and though she “barely knew what was going on,” she learned a lot about law, legal argument form, research, memo writing, and got to see law from both the prosecution and defense perspectives.The next summer, she interned at the San Francisco Hall of Justice. This was a formative experience, as it inspired the topic of her research for her departmental honors senior thesis. The summer between her junior and senior year, she worked for a judge in a courthouse in Lancaster, and was also a clerk at a law firm for one of her previous professors. This is when she was exposed to civil and small claims trials, rather than the criminal trials she observed the previous two summers.
While interning at the San Francisco Hall of Justice, Eva would go watch the jury selection process to diversify her internship experience. Her observations of the juror selection process made her question racial bias within the criminal justice system, specifically in regards to juror selection. “I am concerned with the type of juror who comes to jury selection and says ‘I have some serious conscientious concerns about racial discrimination in the system, and with that thought in mind, I’m not sure how that’s going to affect my judgement in this case given that the defendant is either Black or Latino.’ …Given certain standards for selecting a jury – it’s supposed to be fair and impartial – a juror who expresses those kinds of concerns ends up getting disqualified from the jury, because it is thought that they would be biased towards the defendant given that he or she is Black or Latino. That seemed very odd to me when I observed that.” Eva came to UCLA with this question in mind – “Doesn’t it seem odd that we would be excusing a juror because it looks like they’re manifesting racial bias, when in fact their concern is about racial bias?” This is the topic of her thesis; she is an Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Research Scholar and a Waingrow Research Scholar, and is writing her thesis under two academic mentors; one in philosophy, and one in law. “Because it is an interdisciplinary project, and just the nature of the subject, I don’t think that it would be very fruitful to just go at it from one philosophical lense. So I have mentors in both the law school and the philosophy department. It is so fun because I get to hear about all these different cases from my law professor, and then I get to hear about all these different philosophical theories from my philosophy professor. There is some crossover between the two; it doesn’t even feel like I’m taking these two sources and slapping them together, I get to rework and rethink what the interaction between the two is. Especially certain types of legal reasoning and legal standards, and what kind of philosophical merit or lack thereof is for those.” She began her research project the spring of her junior year, and will finish her thesis spring 2018, her last quarter as an undergraduate at UCLA. “I started the writing process this quarter, and it is kicking my butt.”
Post-grad plans and parting advice
Eva plans to take a gap year after graduating. During her gap year, she plans to begin applying for grad school; she aspires to get a PhD in philosophy, and is considering doing a joint program to get a law degree as well. However, she will definitely take this year to relax too, and enjoy her favorite hobby – skiing. “In the next year I just want to have fun. Take some time off. I took a nap yesterday and it was the highlight of my week!” When asked about her long-term plans, she expresses her trust in the unpredictability of life. “I know what I like, I know what interests me, and I’m starting to get a better picture of what I really care about. So, when the time comes, I think that will be enough. I feel very flexible. Going into grad school, you need to be open minded about what you’re going to do with that higher degree.”She reflects on how college has helped her grow; “I have become a lot more self-assured in both what I’m doing and who I am, or at least who I am going to be. Coming to college has made me want to embrace my more niche interests, even if nobody else is willing to embrace them, (which isn’t true, because there’s always someone else). I think both personally and intellectually, I have become a lot more confident in what I’m thinking about and what I’m trying to say. And I don’t feel I have to rely on others as much as a crutch.”
Lastly, I leave you with Eva’s advice to her freshman year self, things she wish she had known or done. “See your classes not only as boxes to be checked, but something that you can gain things from, whether it’s a really good relationship with your professor or your classmates, or maybe 10 years down the line you’re able to recall some mundane fact; you’ll be so much more grateful looking back on those classes and early years in college, because when I look back it’s a very limited set since I really just didn’t try very hard. There should be a balance between your non-academic/personal life commitments. And especially if you’re someone with obligations and responsibilities outside of school, you won’t be able to put everything into your academic work. But at least put in all that you can. And chances are it’s going to be more than what you initially thought it was.”
“Listen to what other people have to say. And I don’t just mean other scholars or professors, but your classmates have some of the most valuable contributions that you will be exposed to in college. Sometimes when I am either in my classes or just going through college, I think especially here at UCLA, we are all so motivated and driven to be working on our own projects and our own goals that we just put blinders up to everyone else around us. I don’t want to go through life like I go through bruin walk. It shocks me how easy it is to slip into this mindset where you think the only meaningful things that are going on in life are your things. And I think that once we take the blinders down and open up our ears, then we end up realizing that there’s more. From my peers I have learned things personally, and socially, and also academically that I could have never arrived at by myself, and I am so grateful for that.”