Gregory Caguimbal, who received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, decided not to tell his family in advance that he had been selected to serve as student speaker at commencement. He wanted them to enjoy the surprise.
“I come from a family of immigrants whose lives consisted of working in the fields or working in the fast-food industry,” Caguimbal said in an interview before commencement. “Their education was very limited due to the fact they had to sacrifice to support their family and did not have the financial means pursue higher education. They have been through a lot and I wanted to show them their sacrifices have culminated into something great.”
Caguimbal, who was part of the school’s Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity and the UCLA chapter of the Society of Latino Engineers and Scientists, has accepted an engineering position at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale. He already is paying his education forward, as he has launched a scholarship foundation for students at his high school alma mater and plans to found a STEM-based nonprofit with his sister.
Sierra Kennison, who earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, sang the national anthem at the ceremony. But Kennison, who also was the undergraduate winner of the Harry M. Showman Prize for effectively communicating the impact of engineering, is taking her engineering education to distant shores.
She will attend Oxford University, having been accepted into a graduate program in conservation management as well as an MBA program. At UCLA Kennison worked in the lab of Professor Gaurav Sant, who is developing improved and energy-efficient forms of concrete, and of Professor Jennifer Jay, who develops systems to addresses toxins in soil, water and the air.
“My main interest is the conservation of natural habitats to ensure the well-being of wildlife, and ultimately I hope to work with the World Wildlife Fund or a similar organization to make a global impact in this field,” Kennison said.
Roughly 660 students received their bachelor’s degrees at the ceremony. Four hundred and fifteen students earned their master of science degrees, and 119 students who earned their doctorates received the ceremonial hoods marking their achievement.
Thomas Kennedy PhD ’84, chairman and chief executive of Raytheon Corp., offered the keynote address. Kennedy emphasized the importance of diversity, and diversity of thought, as vital traits for engineers who will take on tomorrow’s challenges.
“I ask you to think big,” said Kennedy, whose company is the largest employer of UCLA Engineering graduates. “Adapt, and always be learning.”
A video of the ceremony, including the processional, keynote address, student speaker address, and the conferring of Ph.D.s, master’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees, can be found here.