May 17, 2013
Recognizing our Graduates
Commencement season at CSUSM kicked off in colorful fashion with the Rainbow Recognition Ceremony in early May. It was the first of many celebrations to honor our diverse group of students.
With a Hollywood theme, LGBTQA graduates strutted the red carpet and posed for paparazzi as they made their way into the McMahan House to be recognized for their achievements. Nearly 80 students, friends and family members shared in the excitement of the evening as I offered my congratulations and best wishes, as well news on the university receiving five out of five stars for LGBTQ student life and 4.5 out of 5 stars for our support and commitment to LGBTQA students. Campus Pride, a leading national nonprofit working to create better university environments for LGBTQ students, compiled the rankings.
A few nights later, Chinese lion dancers and drummers welcomed guests to the 8th annual Asian Pacific Islander Recognition Ceremony. Amid the festivities, which included a traditional Pacific Island dance number and a musical medley, I recounted CSUSM’s distinction as an Asian American, Native American and Pacific Islander Serving Institution. We achieved that status in 2008, and it is one that we are extremely proud of.
We are equally as proud of our commitment to Native American students, as was evident at the American Indian Honoring Ceremony. Attended by graduates and their families, as well as by tribal members, the afternoon included a Native blessing, a performance by the Luiseno Bird Singers, and the unveiling of the CSU “How to Get Into College” brochure translated, for the first time, into a Native language: Luiseno. I also recognized our very first American Indian Ph.D. graduate — a memorable moment for all.
That same evening, 16 of our 86 African American graduates were honored for their success. Due to a previously scheduled dinner with a candidate for the provost position, I was unable to attend the event, but I know that the room was full of proud parents, friends, staff and faculty.
The following night, I addressed a packed gym at the Clarke Field House for the La Raza celebration. Of our 600 Hispanic graduates, more than 90 attended festivities in their honor. It was, for many families, an especially moving night, as many of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a four-year degree. In fact, 41 percent of the 2,742 members of the Class of 2013 were the first in their families to earn a four-year degree — that’s 1,124 new alumni who truly embody our mission to transform the educational attainment rate of our region.
One of the most tearful ceremonies was also the final one of the season: the ACE Scholars Services Ceremony, where former foster youth are recognized for achieving academic success. This year’s five graduates are true reminders of the power of education to transform lives. Their paths to — and through — college were often challenging, but like so many of our students, they persevered, they realized that a better life awaited them if they earned their degree.
Through each of the ceremonies, the special character and diversity of Cal State San Marcos shone bright. Forty percent of our students come from underrepresented populations. We mirror the region that we serve. We respect differences and embrace originality. We believe in being civil and being kind and, we believe in acknowledging the well-earned accomplishments of this year’s entire graduating class. I am honored to lead such a wonderful institution, and I am delighted to bid the CSUSM Class of 2013 best wishes for continued success. I hope that you will come back and visit your alma mater often.