From the President: Celebrating Our Graduates
Wednesday, June 01, 2022
Dear campus community,
Last week was a week of great sorrow and great joy. On Tuesday, May 27, we received news of yet another shocking tragedy, this one at a Texas elementary school, just days after deadly shootings in Dallas and Buffalo. Our hearts broke and we raged at the inability of the U.S. to address gun violence. But, here in San Francisco, the week ended joyfully as we celebrated Commencements for the Classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 at Oracle Park. For the first time in three years, we gathered in person to honor our graduating students. As I said in my Commencement address, “While there is much to be sad about…looking at our graduates reminds me that there is also great hope.”
I customarily end the semester with a message to our community celebrating what we have accomplished. This year I will cede this space to the words of the students and graduates who spoke at the ceremonies. Student speakers offered land acknowledgements that recognized that we learn and work on unceded land. They paid homage to their families and ancestors whose sacrifices and support enabled their success. They spoke of their experiences with racism and other forms of hate. They rejected those who told them that they could not do something because of their gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity or religion. They noted that these graduating classes were “built differently” having graduated during a raging pandemic and deeply troubling times, and they celebrated their tenacity, their grit, their resilience.
I share with you but a small sample of their words:
“I learned how oppressed people organize and rise up against injustice – both in the past, present, and for our future…Today is a day of celebration for all graduates and families, and we continue on that walk towards justice, equity, and liberation. There is much to do still…We are still here. Resilient as ever. And long after graduation, so many of us will remain committed to…different ways to give back to our people, to use the gifts we have learned along this walk to change the world.”
Eliana Roberta Hernandez, College of Ethnic Studies
“The film industry has not been written for women of color. Yet here I was, a first-generation Chinese American woman pursuing directing and documentaries, breaking the glass ceiling…my family of immigrant and refugee backgrounds, especially the women, the matriarchs, who taught me to keep your eyes on the prize and to never let go of your dreams. To the classes of 2020 and 2021, as we step into our future, remember to celebrate our ancestors’ sacrifices to get us to where we are today. Remember their stories and continue to amplify their voices.”
Ying Wencie Hoang, College of Liberal & Creative Arts
“Many of you know what it’s like to live through difficult times, to complete your degree even when the world around us was falling apart. The struggles and challenges you faced throughout your academic journey are not disadvantages; in fact they speak to your strength, perseverance and grit.”
Aditi Grossman, Lam Family College of Business.
“Thank you for opening possibilities that I didn’t know existed, for showing me the world of academic and clinical research, for pushing me to use an active mind and stay deeply curious and encouraging me to follow my passions for social justice and advocacy…San Francisco State showed me the beauty of diversity and inclusion through its commitment to fostering an environment that amplifies the voices of students who have been historically silenced and marginalized. I felt abounding acceptance, love, and comradery…We are graduating at a time where we must continue to fight for the rights of a woman's bodily autonomy, the LGBTQIA+ community's right to exist, and remind the country daily that Black and Asian lives do in fact matter. As sea levels continue to rise and we struggle to protect the human rights and natural resources owed to our indigenous peoples, I challenge us to take the knowledge we’ve learned in the last 4+ years and use it to make social justice a right and not a hashtag. May we not be complacent but instead join the fight in equity. We are powerful enough to make a difference…Realize your power. Own your power and by doing that you can create change!”
Kenly Doyle, the Graduate College of Education
I am deeply proud to serve these students, and I thank all of my colleagues—faculty, staff and administrators—whose work enabled their success and so clearly enriched their lives. We all have much of which to be proud, and as these students thank their families, I thank you.
Wishing all a good summer!
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.