Seven Commencement Ceremonies at UC Riverside; Our Students Tell the Story

UC Riverside celebrates the accomplishments of more than 4,000 graduates

More than 4,000 graduates will participate in seven ceremonies at UC Riverside. Elena Lucia Perez and Chancellor Timothy P. White appreciate the moment in 2011. Photo credit: Peter Phun.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Among the more than 4,000 students expected to walk in seven outdoor commencement ceremonies at UC Riverside between Friday, June 15 and Monday, June 18 this year are many who stand out from the crowd:

Amir Rustamzadeh, who is earning a degree in electrical engineering, is originally from Isfahan, Iran, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1999. Amir was an academic employee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he worked on Mars Science Laboratory rover. He also worked at Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), where he worked on the avionics of the Dragon Space Capsule and Falcon 9 rocket, which will dock with the International Space Station. His senior design project for engineering was developing a data acquisition system for the battery-powered Winston Chung Hall on campus. Chosen to speak at graduation, Rustamzadeh will continue his education as a master’s student at UCR.

Psychology major Serkadis Krohm was orphaned at the age of 9, abused by her adoptive family, and moved into foster care. She spoke no English upon arriving in the U.S., yet excelled academically and athletically at Vista Del Lago High School in Moreno Valley. At UCR she had been part of the Guardian Scholars Program, which provides financial aid and resources to young people who have been emancipated from the foster care system. She has raised money to help others. She was honored in late September by the Citizens’ University Committee, where many in the crowd were moved to tears by the story of her hardships.

grads looking at campus

Graduates from 2011 take a look around at UC Riverside

Communication was the goal for Eric Gamboa, who is graduating with a degree in political science after UCR days filled with meeting newspaper production deadlines at the Highlander, to running successful fundraisers, to achieving scholastically and graduating in just three years. He hopes to pursue law school next. In his final year on campus, he helped research and promote FixUC, a detailed plan for how the University of California can solve its budget woes by not charging students until after they have graduated into the work world. “It was a unique approach to the university’s plight,” he said. “The plan sent a clear message to Sacramento and UC leadership.” It also garnered news coverage from Time magazine to the Huffington Post.

Most ceremonies are for ticketed guests only, but for the convenience of far-flung family and friends, the ceremonies will be webcast online. A link will be visible at . One highlight of UCR’s ceremonies is the pipe band leading in the faculty and the graduates.

Food and drink will be available to purchase starting about an hour before the ceremony and until 30 minutes after each ceremony. There is a shuttle from lot from parking lot 6 that will help get the disabled and the elderly closer to the ceremony. There are also two air conditioned spaces with a live webcast of the ceremonies for people who can not be out in the heat. Those are in Watkins 1000 and University Lecture Hall.

A hat says it all at the 2011 ceremony. Photo by Peter Phun

Friday, June 15,
5 p.m.
School of Business Administration/A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management
Keynote Speaker: Ruben Barrales, president and CEO, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. He has an extensive background in government and private industry, with experience as an elected official and as an advocate for business. He served for five years in the White House as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush, where he was the president’s liaison to state and local elected officials. Barrales graduated from UC Riverside in 1984 with a B.A. in political science and administrative studies.

Saturday, June 16, 8 a.m.
College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Group 1: Psychology, Sociology, Religious Studies and Women’s Studies
Keynote speaker: Charles E. Young, chancellor emeritus, UCLA, and a professor of political science and public policy at UCLA. He was UCLA chancellor from 1968 to 1997, and president of the University of Florida from 1999 to 2004. In recent years he has served as CEO of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and as president of the Qatar Foundation. He is a former chairman of the prestigious Association of American Universities, and has served on numerous educational commissions and corporate boards of directors, including semiconductor giant Intel. Dr. Young received a B.A. with honors in political science from UCR in 1955, and was UCR’s first student body president. He earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in political science from UCLA.

Saturday, June 16, 5 p.m.
College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

Group 2: Art, Art History, Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages, Creative Writing, Dance, English, Ethnic Studies, Media and Cultural Studies, Hispanic Studies, Interdisciplinary Programs and Liberal Studies, Music and Theatre
Keynote speaker: Chris Abani, professor of creative writing, University of California, Riverside. He is a novelist who has received the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize and a Guggenheim Award. He holds a B.A. in English (Nigeria), an M.A .in gender and culture (Birkbeck College, University of London), an M.A. in English and a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing (University of Southern California).

Sunday, June 17, 8 a.m.
College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

Group 3: Anthropology, Economics, History, Philosophy and Political Science
Keynote speaker: Goodwin Liu, associate justice, California Supreme Court. He was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the California Commission on Judicial Appointments following his appointment by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. on July 26, 2011. Before joining the state’s highest court, Justice Liu was a professor of law at the UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). His areas of expertise are constitutional law, education law and policy, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He has published widely on these subjects in books, law reviews, and the general media.

Sunday, June 17, 5 p.m.
College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and Division of Biomedical Sciences
Keynote speaker: Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science studies, University of California, San Diego, and adjunct professor of geosciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is an internationally renowned historian of science.  She received her B.S. with first class honors from Imperial College London; worked as an exploration geologist in the Australian outback; and then returned to the United States to receive a Ph.D. in geological research and history of science from Stanford University. Among her many awards and honors is being named the 2011 Climate Change Communicator of the Year. Her book “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming” received the 2011 Watson-David Prize from the History of Science Society.

Monday, June 18, 9 a.m.
Graduate School of Education
Keynote speaker: Doreen Granpeesheh, founder and executive director, Center for Autism and Related Disorders. The center currently provides services via 18 clinics in California, Illinois, Virginia, New York, Texas, Arizona, Australia and New Zealand, and partnerships in Dubai and Johannesburg. She began studying autism as an undergraduate at UCLA, where she also earned a Ph.D. in 1990. While there she worked on a groundbreaking study that showed a recovery rate of close to 50 percent among participants who received early, intensive applied behavior analysis treatment. She is a licensed psychologist in California, Texas, and Arizona, as well as a board-certified behavior analyst. She won the American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists Winokur Award in 2011.

Monday, June 18, 5 p.m.
Bourns College of Engineering
Keynote speaker: Tony Hey, corporate vice president, Microsoft Research Connections. Before joining Microsoft, he served as director of the U.K.’s e-Science Initiative, managing the government’s efforts to provide scientists and researchers with access to key computing technologies. Hey is a graduate of Oxford University, with an undergraduate degree in physics and a doctorate in theoretical physics.

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