UCLA Samueli Recognizes More Than 1,700 Graduating Students at its 2020 Commencement

Jun 15, 2020

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom
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The UCLA Samueli School of Engineering recognized more than 1,700 undergraduate and graduates students on June 13 at its 2020 commencement. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was held online and is available to watch at the school’s 2020 commencement site and on the YouTube channel.

Continuing with its tradition of recognizing every graduate by name, each student who had registered for the ceremony was featured in an individual slide, which enabled each student to share a picture, a personal message and with his/her/their name read while the slide was being shown. Many thanked their parents, family and friends for their support during their UCLA journey.

This year, UCLA Samueli sent off 911 graduates who received a bachelor of science degree, 620 who received a master of science and 174 who received a doctor of philosophy. The actual number of degrees granted for the 2019-20 academic year is not official until the fall.

In her congratulatory remarks, Jayathi Murthy, Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean of Engineering, acknowledged the challenging global situation, which saw the UCLA campus close in March and students return home for remote learning for the remainder of the academic year.

“I’m so proud that you stepped up and met all these challenges with poise, with tenacity, with ingenuity, with resilience,” Murthy said. “I think you’ve shown everyone what it means to be a true Bruin and a problem-solving engineer.”

The ceremony’s distinguished speaker was Jason Droege, a veteran technology executive and entrepreneur who most recently was Uber’s vice president of Uber Everything. He led the company’s launch of its Uber Eats restaurant-delivery platform, which is now used in more than 550 markets in 50 countries. Droege attended UCLA, studying computer science. He and several friends started a music-file search service in their dorm rooms.

“When you are doing hard things, you will be faced many, many times with moments where your brain is telling your body that you’re done or some form of that,” he said. “And you’re not.”

Droege referenced his own experiences and that of his colleagues, noting that those who have found career success pushed themselves through, even as they went through their own periods of doubt. He also reminded the graduates to always be mindful of how valuable their time is.

“I can tell you that you can’t do nothing for 10 years, then cram for 10 years, and catch up to the very best people in the world,” he said, noting he often crammed for exams as a student. “Because they’ve been working for those decades to get better and better and better.”

Representing the class of 2020, student speaker Imani Chantal Elston asked the graduates, “How will you utilize the tools you now have to turn these dark times into light?”

Elston, who majored in civil engineering, will continue at UCLA Samueli in the fall for graduate study.

“In an age when it is so easy to focus on our individual goals and pursuits, the world is looking to us and placing their hopes in the dream that we can come together to make an impact on this global pandemic and the many injustices we are currently experiencing,” she said. “This is a defining moment, not just for the world, but for each and every one of us.”

TC Tsao, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, presided over the ceremony, which is the school’s 56th commencement.

Jared Rivera, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and in physics, delivered an acknowledgement that the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples are the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (Los Angeles basin, So. Channel Islands).

Karin Olga Sinavsky ’01, MS ’03 sang the national anthem. Now an anesthesiologist at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, and an assistant clinical professor at UC San Francisco, she reprised the role she played at several commencement ceremonies while a UCLA student.

Prior to the start of the official program, Murthy addressed the recent turbulence across the country sparked by the brutal killings of unarmed Black Americans. She said the school stands in solidarity with the Black community, and vowed to improve recruitment and retention of Black students and faculty.

At the conclusion of the program, Murthy invited all graduates to join in the virtual tassel-turn and donning of the hood after conferring all degrees.

Immediately following the ceremony, alumni, faculty, staff and fellow students offered messages of congratulations. The school has also made a kudoboard for family and friends to post and share congratulatory messages.

The program for the commencement, listing all students who registered, is also available at the 2020 commencement site.

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