Stories of Perseverance Among UC Riverside’s Graduating Class

2015 commencement ceremonies puts UCR at 100,000 living alumni

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( – Nearly 5,500 students are expected to participate in the 61st Commencement at University of California, Riverside. The university will welcome thousands of family members and friends over the course of seven ceremonies spanning across four days, from Friday, June 12 to Monday, June 15.

Weeks and months of writing papers, taking tests and making presentations has brought them to this moment – the moment of achievement. For the university, it’s a showcase of diversity. The 2015 graduation ceremonies will put UC Riverside at 100,000 living alumni – a milestone for the university.

“UCR’s 100,000 living graduates include celebrated chefs, artists and athletes; leaders in politics, business, law and government; winners of the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize — and a former Poet Laureate of the United States,” Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox said. “Every day, our alumni are working to make our state, nation and world a better, smarter and more interesting place.”

Most ceremonies will be held on Pierce Lawn, just east of the Bell Tower. For the first time, the Graduate Division and Teacher Credential program will have its own commencement ceremony, held indoors at the Student Recreation Center.

Guests who are sensitive to the heat may view any graduation ceremony in the University Lecture Hall or Watkins 1000. These lecture halls have climate control and will broadcast a live video-feed of each ceremony on a large screen. No tickets are required for entrance into these locations. Each ceremony will be webcast, available from the campus home page.

For the graduating student, commencement is the payoff after years of hard work and perseverance. There are more than 5,000 unique stories floating around, the trials and tribulations that brought UC Riverside students to this point in their lives, and here’s a handful of them. The links lead to an extended profile for each one.

Judy Cervantes will receive a Ph.D. from UC Riverside this June.

Judy Cervantes

Judy Cervantes – Her childhood was rough and included living with strangers, childhood sexual abuse, immigration troubles, poverty and an unsupportive teacher who tried to place her in special education classes. Instead, Judy Cervantes is graduating with a Ph.D. – not only the first of her family to get a doctorate, but the first of her family to ever attend college.

“Some members of my family don’t even know what a Ph.D. is,” she said.

julian 3

Julian Hartzell

Julian Hartzell – In his sophomore year of high school, Julian Hartzell was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Now he wants to become a doctor and serve the Riverside community. He’s hoping his illness will inspire others to seize the day.

“It has helped me enjoy the little things in life. If I wake up and I am feeling good that day – I know I have to soak it all in and make the most of it.”

Cassie Nguyen will receive her bachelor’s degree in public policy from UC Riverside.

Cassie Nguyen

Cassie Nguyen – At 16 she was diagnosed with brain cancer and forced to miss a year and a half of school, but Cassie Nguyen pushed herself to get all her schoolwork done and walk with her high school graduating class. “It was amazing, that was the only thing I wanted,” Cassie said.

She has earned her bachelor’s degree in public policy. But the thing she is most proud of is starting a film camp for children battling cancer. She hopes to bring it to the UC Riverside campus.

Manuel Sanchez

Manuel Sanchez

Manuel Sanchez – The first of his family to go to college, Manuel Sanchez has already achieved something many people would work toward their entire life – a job with Google. His parents were immigrants, and they both worked constantly. Manuel didn’t have a life of luxury, but said he never felt like he was lacking anything. In fact, he’s thankful for everything his parents did.

“They were terrific. If I needed something, they found a way to make it happen,” he said.

Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith – With a two-year-old and a six-year-old running around the house, it’s safe to assume Patrick Smith doesn’t get to concentrate on school work as much as he’d like. As difficult as it has been to be a father and a student at the same time, he said it has given him perspective. “I can’t fail. I have to do well, I have to try my hardest, I can’t let my kids down.”

Patrick will receive his electrical engineering degree from UC Riverside.

Commencement Schedule and Ceremony Information

Friday, June 12, 2015

6 p.m. School of Business Administration

Keynote Speaker: Susan Atherton ‘77

Susan Atherton is the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Humane Society Legislative Fund (Washington, DC), an organization focused on electing animal welfare supportive legislators at all levels of government. In the past, she has served in executive management positions in the enterprise software and cloud computing industries for 25 years, including – NCR Corporation, GE Information Systems, Oracle Corporation, Rightpoint and DoubleClick. Atherton is a current trustee on the UCR Board of Trustees and SoBA Executive Fellow, and is a graduate of UCR. She received her B.A. in Administrative Studies and a B.S. in Economics the university.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

8 a.m. College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Group 1: Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology

Keynote Speaker: Gustavo Arellano

Gustavo Arellano is the editor of OC Weekly, the author of “Orange County: A Personal History” and “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America,” and a lecturer with the Chicana and Chicano studies department at California State University, Fullerton. But, that’s not all Gustavo Arellano does – a consulting producer on Bordertown, he writes a nationally syndicated column called “Ask a Mexican,” and is the recipient of many awards ranging from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies to the Los Angeles Press Club President’s Award to an Impacto Award from the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Arellano is a lifelong resident of Orange County and is the proud son of two Mexican immigrants, one of whom was illegal.

1 p.m. Graduate Division and Teacher Credential Program

Keynote Speaker: Sandra B. Jones

She’s been named “Top 40 Under 40” by OC Metro magazine, but that’s not the only notable achievement Sandra B. Jones has under her belt. She graduated Magna cum laude from UCLA in political science, then earned a graduate degree from the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. Jones has served in several educational management positions at both UC Irvine and the University of Southern California, and previously was a researcher at the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access. She will receive her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Policy from the UC Riverside Graduate School of Education. Upon graduation, Ms. Jones looks forward to continuing her work in educational administration, teaching, research, and service.

6 p.m. College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences

Keynote Speaker: Michael Devirian ‘66

Michael Devirian has a rich and distinguished career managing space missions at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena and at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C. He is a UC Riverside alum, and immediately after graduating from the university he began his work as a mission controller. His career highlights include work on the Mars Mariner and Lunar Lander Missions from 1966-1970. He was the operations manager for the installation of the Hubble Space Telescope and Camera. He also worked on the global data systems for Earth resource management through the United Nations Environmental Program.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

8 a.m. College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Group 2: Anthropology, Economics, History, Political Science

Keynote Speaker: Edward D. Castillo

He is one of only five living California Indians whose biography appears in the encyclopedia of Notable Native Americans. Edward D. Castillo, of Cahuilla and Luiseno ancestry, earned his Bachelor’s degree from UC Riverside in 1969. A founding member of the Native American Studies departments at both UCLA and UC Berkeley, he has taught Native American history and ethnography for 40 years. His specialization is in California Indian ethno-history. In 1999 he was honored by the California State Assembly for his contributions to California History, and in 2002 he was honored for lifetime achievement by the California Indian Conference.

6 p.m. College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Group 3: Art, Art History, Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages, Creative Writing, Dance, English, Ethnic Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Hispanic Studies, Interdisciplinary Programs, Media and Cultural Studies, Music, Religious Studies and Theatre, Film & Digital Production

Keynote Speaker: Juan Felipe Herrera

With 29 books published in poetry and various genres, UC Riverside Professor Emeritus Juan Felipe Herrera has just been named U.S. Poet Laureate. This is the latest of many awards for his poetry – including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, the Latino International Award, the PEN USA award, and the Josephine Miles Pen/Oakland Award. He recently finished his two year appointment as the California Poet Laureate.  His recent book Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes won the Pura Belpré Honors Award. He lives in Fresno with his partner, poet Margarita Robles.

Monday, June 15, 2015

6 p.m. Bourn’s College of Engineering

Keynote Speaker: Susan Hackwood

Executive Director of the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), and Professor of Electrical Engineering at UC Riverside, Susan Hackwood is. She holds seven patents, is a Fellow of the IEEE and the AAAS, and holds honorary degrees from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Ph.D.) and DeMontfort University, UK (D.Sc.).

Awards ceremonies and celebrations are happening all over campus before and after commencement weekend. These celebrations are organized by the student support offices, the honors programs and within departments and colleges. On social media, tag pictures with #UCRgrad15 and help us show the end-of-the-year activity. See some examples:

Archived under: Arts/Culture, Politics/Society, Science/Technology, , , , , , , ,

Top of Page