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2018 Commencement Speech
June 11, 2018
Graduates, I am pleased and honored to be with you today, on this memorable occasion. Your experiences and education from Cal State East Bay are the foundation upon which you will build your lives going forward as our future scientists, engineers, nurses, and psychologists.
This year, Cal State East Bay will graduate almost 5,000 students. Here are some facts about yourselves:
Of those student receiving bachelor’s degrees:
- The youngest of you is 19;
- The oldest is 89;
- 61% of you are female;
- Many of you are international students representing 26 countries
- And 60% are first-generation college graduates
Of those students receiving their graduate degrees:
- The youngest of you is 22
- The oldest is 72;
- 63% of you are female;
- 22% of you are international students representing 34 different countries;
- 42% are first-generation college graduates; and,
- Yours is the last class to graduate under the quarter system!
Well done, all of you.
Your sacrifices, perseverance and determination have carried you through to this very moment, the day of graduation. Each of you negotiated a complex schedule of daytime, evening, weekend, online, and hybrid classes until your requirements were fulfilled.
You managed to accomplish this while holding down jobs — sometimes more than one, pursuing internships, studying abroad, and providing service to the community. And, importantly, you found time to be with your family, friends and loved ones, some of whom I hope are in the audience, celebrating with you today.
I wanted to share a few stories about our graduates.
From the College of Science: Among you is an outstanding student athlete who was adopted at a young age. Early testing revealed he was on the autism spectrum and he struggled in the classroom. But after finding track and field — and joining the team at Cal State East Bay — he proved to be unstoppable. Today he graduates with degree in biological sciences and begins a Ph.D. program in physics in the fall.
Another is a former transfer student originally from Brazil. She started her own housecleaning and photography business while attending school full time. Persevering and making sacrifices has been key to her goal of becoming a psychologist and her work at a call center for a crisis line has broadened her experience. Without a doubt, she is poised for success.
From the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences: Among you is a classmate graduating in Liberal Studies. The eldest of eight siblings, when he saw a Cal State East Bay poster in high school, the motto “Through Adversity to the Stars” particularly resonated with him. In college, with the help of Pioneers for Hope, he survived periods of homelessness and food insecurity and walks across the stage today.
Another of your classmates is a student who entered foster care when she was just four years old. Reunited with family at age eight, substance abuse by her parents turned her life upside down, creating an unstable environment. She was returned to foster care, but previous trauma caused her to act out in her group home. When she came to Cal State East Bay, her problems did not disappear. Nonetheless, she persisted, she is graduating and remains outspoken for policy that gives foster youth greater control over their mental health.
From the College of Business and Economics and the College of Education and Allied Studies: Among you is a student who has overcome significant personal challenges. Raised in an abusive home, this student grew up addicted to drugs and alcohol and later spent periods of time homeless. Today, he is a tri-athlete graduating in Kinesiology with a driving commitment to give back those less fortunate.
One of your classmates’ journey began in the maize fields of her home country, where she worked with her grandfather. She found her way to CSUEB as a transfer student in Fall 2016 and has earned exceptional grades throughout her academic career. Today she is an active member of the academic fraternity Beta Alpha Psi and accepted an offer for a full-time position at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
From the Concord Campus: We have three individuals who have earned their degrees at Cal State East Bay while holding full time positions at our Concord Campus. Each represents a distinct level of educational achievement, and each captures the spirit of the university. One is a campus community service officer who has earned his bachelor's degree in business administration before embarking on a career in law enforcement. Another graduate serves as the coordinator of the university's Pioneers for H.O.P.E. Program.
She is a mother of three, grandmother of one, and has earned her Masters Degree in Public Administration. Finally, we have the campus accessibility services counselor, an immigrant American who has earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership.
Another of your classmates is a non-traditional transfer student. After her husband suffered a debilitating stroke, she became the primary caregiver and provider for him and four sons. While raising her family and working full time at Cal State East Bay, she pursued coursework at a community college. Today she walks across the stage, with a degree in Human Development and having achieved highest Latin Honors. Truly inspirational.
I know each of you have gone through your own challenges and struggles. Each of you here today personify our motto, “Per Aspera Ad Astra”—from adversity to the stars. You are all Pioneers--persisting, achieving, and thriving.
As you leave Cal State East Bay, I would like to share a few, final thoughts with you:
- Those of you graduating today, whether you are first in your family, second, third or even fourth generation to receive a college degree—maybe even from Cal State East Bay, are laying the foundation for success for generations to come. Your decision to invest in a college education will repay dividends beyond just the financial as your children and their children are more likely to attend and graduate from college.
- Know that your opinions matter but that it is your actions that matter most. As Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai has said: “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” Transform that energy and enthusiasm into problem solving and solutions.
- Dream BIG! Make plans about what you would like to do and where you want to go. There will be detours, curves, and bumps along the path, but don’t give up. Learn from them and recognize that other opportunities may arise as a result.
- Take risks, challenge yourselves, and do not fear failure. We all fail at various times in our lives, but the most important thing is to pick yourself up, learn from this experience, and move forward.
- Finally, give back. We have worked to engage you in meaningful civic and service learning activities at Cal State East Bay; pay it forward by continuing this service to your community. As college graduates, you are now a role model through your actions, as well as through the skills, abilities and knowledge you offer.
Wherever the future takes you, with your Pioneer pride, your accomplishments, your passion and joy, you can help create a more socially just and equitable world. Be a Pioneer, make a difference and leave the world a better place than you found it.
Before I close, I’d like to take a moment to recognize and honor those who supported you in reaching this milestone moment. None of us reaches any of our goals without the help and support of others along our journey. Let’s recognize some of the people who assisted you.
These include your families, friends, loved ones who might be watching this online from around the world and the Cal State East Bay faculty and staff. If you know where they are sitting, wave to them and let’s give them a very loud round of applause.
Congratulations to you and your families. I wish you ongoing success wherever your dreams take you. And Go Pioneers!