Quoted From Spring Commencements 2017

Two jumbo screens show a student rapping her commencement speech. (David Slipher/UC Davis)
Jothika Tamizharasu, who graduated with a degree in neurobiology, physiology and behavior, delivers her speech in rap: "Yes. It took us four long years/ filled with tears and fears/ a dozen thoughts about careers/ meeting tons and tons of peers/ spending hours as volunteers/ BUT we persevered." (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

As thousands assembled at 13 spring commencements, speakers capped off the graduates’ studies with words of challenge, responsibility, inspiration and celebration. Here is a sampling.

Take up the mission

Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter speaking at a commencement
Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter speaks about truth at the College of Engineering commencement. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

You, who have completed a course in one of the world's great universities ... have a mission to take up. As you go out into the world, please help others understand more deeply the differences between transcendent and empirical “truths” and the potential value of each in its own realm. Also, please reassure those you meet that the advance of empirical or scientific knowledge is something to be grateful for, not a reason to denounce either enterprise. And finally, show everyone by your example that the expertise of highly trained and well-informed professionals deserves their trust — provisionally. — Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter

Meet the challenges

Four graduates pose at School fo medicine commencement
Posing to memorialize a happy moment are four graduates of the School of Medicine. Left to right: Ngabo Nzigira, Jennifer Nguyen, Kristina Rodriguez and Ian Kim. (Charles Casey/School of Medicine)

You are moving forward in medicine during tumultuous and exciting times: major advancements, increased awareness of healthcare disparities, countrywide debates about healthcare delivery … You arrived here with the heart and soul to face these challenges. You leave here with the skills and knowledge to meet these challenges. Do not lose your dedication, enthusiasm and compassion — or your sense of humor. Dr. Leon Jones, associate dean for students at UC San Francisco’s School of Medicine, School of Medicine, May 19

Make the case

Sister Simone Campbell speaks at commencement
Sister Simone Campbell tells graduates that the field of law needs those with special qualities to make the case for the sakes of society and the Constitution. (Sam Sellers/School of Law)

We need good lawyers right now in our nation. As I was reflecting to prepare for this talk, I realized that the role of lawyers is to help manage societal crisis and chaos. What you are emerging into is a field that is in sore need of clear heads, of keen understanding, and a willingness to make the necessary arguments for the sake of our society and the sake of our Constitution. — Sister Simone Campbell, J.D. ’77, activist, author and executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, School of Law, May 20

Move forward

Students in line for commencement
Students look forward to the ceremonial awarding of their degrees at the College of Engineering commencement. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Once you make [a] decision, keep going on that path. Don’t look back. And move forward with all the energy and enthusiasm and optimism you can muster. — Grace Bransford, D.V.M. ’98, who left a career in advertising to become a veterinarian, School of Veterinarian Medicine, May 27


A student
An engineering student wears a graduation cap with four additional tiers. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

In the current climate, schools, districts and communities are engaged in developing local goals and aspirations. Changing their community’s story. … The opportunity for educators to be bold locally for students is at hand, but being attentive and listening to the stories, dreams, and aspiration of students, parents and communities is critical. — Ed Manansala, Ed.D. ’11, El Dorado County superintendent of schools, School of Education, June 14

Command your life journey

Students stand during an undergraduate commencement ceremony. (Credit?/UC Davis)
Graduates stand for the national anthem at the College of Biological Sciences commencement. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

At times, your choices will be controversial to others. At times, those who love you the most, and whom you love the most, will not understand where you are coming from. But what is most important, when all is said and done, is that you take command of your own life journey. In the meantime, however, do not shut off your heart from your loved ones, no matter how much you might find yourself in disagreement with them. — Prem Jain, M.S. ’77, entrepreneur and CEO of startup Pensando Systems, Graduate Studies, June 15

Thank your teachers

Photo of University Medalist on commencement stage
University Medalist Srujan Kopparapu invites fellow graduates and guests to help him recognize Sue Baker, his biology teacher from Vista del Lago High School in Folsom, California. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

I hope to start a small tradition today that may help to boost recognition for teachers. In the audience, I have my high school AP biology teacher, who played an instrumental role in my life as a teacher, club mentor, and guide. … I encourage everyone here to go to your hometown, find your previous teachers, and pay them a visit. I’m sure they would be thrilled. — University Medalist Srujan Kopparapu, B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology and B.A. in psychology, College of Biological Sciences, June 16

Heed these life lessons

Two female students pause for a selfie
Two students pause for a selfie at commencement. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Lesson No. 1: Never, ever give up. … The simple lesson is that I didn’t give up. Don’t give up. Be totally INSANE about not giving up. Eventually, everyone else does. If YOU don’t give up, you win. … Lesson No. 2: Completion is everything. My second lesson is about finishing things. To me, completion is everything. Unless you finish it, it’s nothing. — Alfred Chuang, M.S. ’86, chairman and CEO of Magnet Systems in Palo Alto, College of Engineering, June 16

Expect more

Several students from the Graduate School of management in an informal pose
Students anticipate their graduation from the Graduate School of Management. (Courtesy/GradImages)

We are at a crossroads with the sustainability of the planet and an equitable societal order very much up in the air. The dynamics create exciting times in which to live our one wild and precious life. But they carry weighty responsibilities, too. We need to aim high and expect more, not less, from our basic societal institutions — especially business. After all, we can turn the world upside down, and we can change everyone’s fortunes for the better. But we need to imagine and strive. — Kat Taylor, co-founder and co-CEO of Beneficial State Bank, Graduate School of Management, June 17

Remember the bike circle?

A cluster of graduates laughing
Mariah Houston talks with friends before the School of Education ceremony. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Life can be like the first time you enter a bike circle: Some of us, like me, took the long way for the first month to avoid them altogether, others went in fast, and some slow, bracing themselves for the chaos and uncertainty … ahead. Some succeeded, others at first didn’t. Some missed their exit and had to go around again, others took a while to learn. Some of you are still fearful, most confident. You see, life is not about where or how you start, it is always about the journey to your destination. So, while some of us had a tougher time than others, we are all sitting here. And look at us, we made it!  Student speaker Kathryn Green, B.A. in political science-public service, College of Letters and Science, June 17

Celebrate your moment, too 

Family members cheer at a commencement ceremony.
Loved ones cheer at an undergraduate commencement ceremony. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Parents and guardians, siblings and children, and extended family and friends — the graduating students, faculty, staff and I want to thank you for your support and encouragement of these graduates throughout their entire educational career. You have counseled them through final exams, answered questions about colds and flus… and advised them through stressful classes, the drama associated with relationships, and homesickness. You’ve celebrated their wins and reassured them through their challenges. You are the foundation of their support system and you have played a major role in their success and wellbeing. This is your moment as well. — Dean Helene Dillard, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, June 18

'Be our ambassadors'

A female graduate gives a thumbs up at commencement
Student Aima Eichle, who majored in neurobiology, physiology and behavior, signals her feelings at commencement. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The Class of 2017 is the most diverse and international class in the history of UC Davis. We are counting on you to be our ambassadors, spreading the word worldwide about the value of a UC Davis education and the ideals of a public university. Don’t sing your praises just to the choir, your fellow alumni. As the African-American spiritual says, “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere.” — Ken Burtis, interim provost and executive vice chancellor

Related story and video: UC Davis Now Has More Than a Quarter Million Alumni

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