Stories of Triumph and Perseverance Among UC Riverside’s 2017 Graduating Class

UCR’s 63rd Commencement includes inaugural School of Medicine ceremony

UCR Highlanders celebrating their achievements at the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences commencement ceremony in 2016. GradImages

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — More than 5,700 students are expected to graduate, and nearly 4,700 students are expected to participate, in the 63rd Commencement at University of California, Riverside. The university will welcome thousands of family members and friends for eight ceremonies spanning over five days. The events begin on Friday, June 9, the continue from Friday, June 16 through Monday, June 19.

Most ceremonies will be held on Pierce Lawn, just east of the Bell Tower. The inaugural School of Medicine class, graduating its first cohort, will have its own commencement ceremony, held indoors at the Student Recreation Center North’s main gymnasium.

Guests who are sensitive to the heat may view the graduation ceremonies held on Pierce Lawn 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 5,500 unique stories that brought UC Riverside students to this point in their lives, and here are a handful of them. The links included in the personal stories below will lead to an extended profile for each student.

Doug Grover

Doug Grover — A father of two, Doug Grover, will be part of the inaugural School of Medicine graduating class. He said there were moments when he thought he might not get through medical school, and when he doubted himself. But with the right balance at home and at school, and the help of the UCR staff, he made it.

Eileen Lek

Eileen Lek — After years of struggling with her identity, Eileen Lek said she finally began accepting who she is – a queer woman. A first-generation college student, she will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science.

Jennifer Madrigal — A mother of two, Jennifer Madrigal will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. After years of enduring abuse and manipulation by an ex-boyfriend, Madrigal left the relationship, started attending UCR, met her husband at work, and will head to graduate school after commencement.

Melanie Queponds

Melanie Queponds — Transfer student Melanie Queponds found a support system within the UCR Honor’s Program— and her passion for theater—during her three years at UCR. The 22-year-old Menifee resident majors in English and theater, and is finishing with a 3.76 GPA. She was active in UCR’s Latina/o Play Project, and in August will travel across the country to begin work on an MFA at DePaul University.

Cynthia Romero — This first-generation college student will be graduating with two degrees; Chicano Studies and Spanish. English is Cynthia Romero’s second language, and she worked multiple jobs throughout college to help pay the bills.

Shouq Sadah — An international student from Saudi Arabia, Shouq Sadah will be receiving her Ph.D. in computer science. She came to UCR as a master’s student thanks to a scholarship. She said she learned a lot throughout her time here — like how to support herself financially.

Commencement Schedule and Ceremony Information

Friday, June 9, 2017

6 p.m. School of Medicine — Commencement and Hippocratic Oath Ceremony
Student speaker: Anish Dhamija
Keynote speaker: David M. Carlisle, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. David M. Carlisle

Dr. David M. Carlisle is the president and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), a professor in public health and medicine at CDU, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. His clinical work revolves around caring for the underserved. For years, he has served as a volunteer physician at the Venice Family Clinic. Dr. Carlisle graduated from Wesleyan University and earned his medical degree from Brown University. He then received a master’s degree in public health and a Ph.D. from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Dr. Carlisle is the past director of the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, where he served for 11 years.

Friday, June 16, 2017

6 p.m. School of Business
Student speaker: Turner Stanton
Keynote speaker: Chester T. Yang, B.A. ’92

Chester T. Yang

Chester T. Yang is the CEO of Bunge in China, an executive committee member of Bunge Asia, and he oversees the Bunge Asia operations for Bunge Limited, a global agribusiness and foods company headquartered in New York. Yang is the founder and deputy director of the China Food Security Legislation Research Center. His philanthropic work includes transforming a school in an impoverished community in rural China by providing water, power, desks, and chairs, increasing teacher salaries, and introducing new curriculum and technology. In 2010, Yang was awarded the Outstanding Businessman & Entrepreneur Award from the Shanghai Municipality in China. In 2011, he was appointed a member of the Asia Transformational & Turnaround Association. Yang received his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Riverside in 1992.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

8 a.m. College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
Student speaker: Kevin Mortazavi

6 p.m. Graduate Division and Teacher Credential Program
Student speaker: Aviva Goldmann

Sunday, June 18, 2017

8 a.m. College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Group One
Student Speaker: Ivy Kim
Ceremony includes the following departments: Anthropology, Economics, History and Political Science.

6 p.m. College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Group Two
Student speaker: Marcy Kuo
Ceremony includes the following departments: 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, Public Policy, Religious Studies and Theatre, Film & Digital Production.

Monday, June 19, 2017

8 a.m. College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Group Three
Includes the departments of Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology.
Student Speaker: Sierra LaPoint

6 p.m. Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering
Student speaker: Jasmine Moreno
Keynote speaker: Mary D. Nichols, J.D.

Mary D. Nichols

Mary D. Nichols currently serves as the chairman of the California Air Resources Board (ARB), a post she has held since 2007. There she is responsible for implementing California’s greenhouse gas emissions legislation, and setting air pollution standards. After graduating from Cornell University and Yale Law School, Nichols practiced environmental law in Los Angeles. President Clinton appointed her to head the Office of Air and Radiation at the United States Environmental Protection Agency, where — among many other regulatory breakthroughs—she implemented the acid rain trading program and set the first air quality standard for fine particles. She also served as California’s Secretary for Natural Resources from 1999 to 2003. Prior to her return to the ARB, Nichols was a professor of law, and  the director of the Institute of the Environment at UCLA.

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