University awarded 1,000th degree during ceremony; Kang urges graduates to act as global citizens and stewards in his final commencement address as chancellor
MERCED, Calif. — The University of California, Merced, marked a historic milestone at its sixth commencement exercise today (May 14), as the university awarded its 1,000 thdegree.
Members of this year's class hail from 35 counties across California, as well as five additional states and one foreign country.
The commencement not only marked the 1,000 thdegree conferred, it marked a milestone for Chancellor Steve Kang, who will end his four-year tenure June 30 to return to teaching and research at UC Santa Cruz. He will conduct research in the field of integrated circuitry, in which he holds numerous patents and is internationally recognized as a major contributor, and also work on revising a textbook.
Presiding over the evening as some 500 members of the Class of 2011 walked across the stage, Chancellor Kang explained that he and his wife, Mia, share a special connection with this year's class because they arrived on campus the same year as many of them.
"For many of you, commencement marks the end of your time spent at UC Merced but also the beginning of a new journey," he said. "But you will always be a part of this campus' legacy and future. You are pioneering mighty Bobcats, now and forever."
Chancellor Kang urged the graduates to think and act as global citizens and stewards.
"As you go through life, you will realize that many problems facing the nation and world are complex and interrelated," he said. "And it is up to all of us to work together to find solutions across cultural and geographical boundaries."
Among the graduates was Dulcemaria Anaya, who represented her class as the student speaker and offered words of advice.
"Fellow classmates, I encourage you to think about what impact you will make in this world and how you will give back to our community," said Anaya, who received a degree in world history and will pursue a Master of Education in student affairs at UCLA in the fall. "Now it is our turn to reach out to younger generations that look up to us in hopes of one day being in our shoes."
The first commencement student speaker to hail from Merced, Anaya expounded on UC Merced's diversity and the sense of belonging she enjoyed during her four years on campus.
"UC Merced offered us endless opportunities that allowed us to explore our talents, discover our identities and become a community of leaders, innovators and activists," she said. "Even though we have all explored different paths to get to this point, we all share one thing in common, and that is the ground we stepped on."
In his keynote address, Lloyd H. Dean, president and CEO of Catholic Healthcare West, continued the theme of community service.
"I hope that many of you here today will also stay and build your lives in the Valley, because it can use your talents and skills," he said. "And even if you move somewhere else, I hope that you will devote some of your energies to helping others and for giving back for the opportunity."
Dean, a nationally recognized healthcare leader, currently serves as chair of the Board of Directors for the Bay Area Council, the business-sponsored public policy organization for the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2010, he was ranked No. 24 in Modern Healthcare's "100 Most Influential People in Healthcare" and is also consistently named one of the "Top 25 Minority Leaders in Healthcare."
He told the graduates that while they should expect challenges in their personal and professional lives, they can prevail.
"As you move on in your careers, the challenges may seem formidable. But you can continue to succeed through determination," Dean said. "Sometimes you have to swim against a strong tide to get where others won't go. But you just keep going. Just keep moving forward."
This year's commencement ceremony capped another extraordinary year of growth and progress for the newest campus in the University of California system. It was a year that produced a host of awards, accolades and milestones for the six-year-old campus — including record numbers of student applications and admissions.
"We couldn't be more thrilled with the progress we've made here in just six years," Kang said. "The people of California, and especially the San Joaquin Valley, can be very proud of their new campus, the research our world-class faculty is doing here every day and the excellence of our graduates."
Despite severe budget cuts to the UC system as a whole, UC Merced continues to grow and thrive, Kang said, because the campus is vital to the future of higher education in California and the economic development of the San Joaquin Valley, the fastest growing region in the state.
The campus has already contributed more than $500 million to the Valley economy in the form of construction projects, service contracts, wages and related expenditures. Statewide, the total is approximately $1 billion.
To read remarks by speakers at UC Merced's 2011 commencement:
Brenda Ortiz