UCLA Samueli Honors Class of 2021 at In-Person Celebration and Virtual Commencement
Nearly 2,000 graduates now join prestigious Bruin engineer alumni community
Nearly 600 engineering graduates participated in the two-hour event yesterday, which was reserved exclusively for engineering students and their two guests each. Jayathi Murthy, Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean of Engineering, several faculty members and staff representatives were also on hand to congratulate the graduates.
As they entered the procession in their caps and gowns on a beautiful sunny day, the students were greeted by a special video presentation and the tune of Pomp and Circumstance. The graduates took turns crossing the stage while getting their pictures taken. As they exited the stadium, faculty and staff cheered them on at a swag table set up to send them off with some UCLA Samueli souvenirs. The event was livestreamed on the school’s website and Facebook page, and is now accessible on the UCLA Samueli YouTube Channel.
Other UCLA Samueli graduates signed up for campus-wide processions joined by fellow class of 2021 Bruins from all units at various time blocks on June 10-15. These events are also livestreamed and can be accessed on the campus commencement website.
UCLA Samueli aired its formal 57th commencement ceremony today, held online for the second year in a row due to the ongoing pandemic. The nearly four-hour program featured aerospace engineering alumna Megan McArthur as the 2021 distinguished commencement speaker. McArthur, who is the NASA SpaceX Crew 2 mission pilot, recorded her remarks aboard the orbiting International Space Station, where she is part of an international crew on a six-month mission. This is her second trip to space. In 2009, she was aboard the space shuttle Atlantis to service the Hubble Space Telescope.
This year, UCLA Samueli saw 1,050 graduates who received a bachelor of science degree, 695 MS degree recipients, one earning an engineer degree, and 193 students who received a doctor of philosophy degree. The actual number of degrees granted for the 2020-21 academic year is not official until the fall. A PDF file of the 57th commencement program featuring all registered students is posted on the school’s website.
The virtual ceremony opened with a UCLA fight song performed by the Bruin Marching Band. Yoram Cohen, UCLA’s Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Professor and a distinguished professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, presided over the ceremony.
Third-year electrical engineering student Gillian Marie Vaughn, a member of the Cherokee tribe, delivered an acknowledgement that the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples are the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (Los Angeles basin and the southern Channel Islands).
In her congratulatory remarks for the commencement, Murthy praised the graduates for working through a difficult 16 months with courage, poise and tenacity.
“You’ve shown us all just how resilient you are and what it means to be a true Bruin — to be a problem-solving engineer,” she said. “I want you to know how very proud I am of every one of you for not relenting and for not giving up under these extraordinary circumstances. I know that your professors, your family, your friends all feel the same way.”
Drawing from her own experience pursuing a career as an astronaut, McArthur ‘93 shared lessons learned from her days at UCLA with fellow Bruin engineers. In particular, she emphasized the importance of embracing teamwork to achieve big goals, being fully prepared with a plan, but still being flexible enough to adjust to evolving situations.
McArthur recalled that her father worked as a naval aviator at the Moffett Field Naval Air Station near Sunnyvale, California, which is also where NASA’s Ames Research Center is located.
“As a teenager, I used to watch astronauts arrive to conduct training on the shuttle simulators there, and that made me think about space exploration and what it would take to be a part of an endeavor like that,” McArthur said. Despite earning a doctoral degree in oceanography later, she said the idea of being an astronaut was always in the back of her mind and she took a chance on pursuing that dream.
“And if you spot an opportunity, one that you really, really want to pursue, don’t be afraid to give it a go,” McArthur said.
“And the same goes for you. If there’s a passion in you, don’t lose that,” McArthur said. “And if you spot an opportunity, one that you really, really want to pursue, don’t be afraid to give it a go. You won’t regret going for it and you might even land it. And don’t be too shy about sharing your big dreams with the people around you. You may be surprised by how they can help you.”
Representing the class of 2021 as student speaker is Maeneka Grewal, who is a newly minted bachelor of science degree holder in computer science. In her speech, Grewal called for her fellow graduates to embrace all of life’s experiences — both the good, and not so good, ones — without focusing on only a single pinnacle moment such as college graduation.
Grewal shared a piece of advice she got from a UCLA faculty. “When you listen to a symphony, you listen to the way every single note sounds and interacts with the other notes,” she recalled the professor telling her class. “You listen to the crescendos and the diminuendos, and all of that together is what makes it sound so beautiful. If you only wait for the grand finale of the symphony, if you’re only waiting for that last note, you won’t be able to appreciate the whole thing.”
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block delivered a special message to the class of 2021 Bruin engineers. He paid tribute to the many contributions made by students and faculty during the pandemic, including making urgently needed personal protective equipment and developing new testing methods and vaccine boosters to help curb the spread of COVID. Even during collective adversity, Block noted, many embraced UCLA’s core value of service by working towards the public good, and for the university and their fellow students.
“Now as we look toward recovery from the pandemic, and face other existential challenges like climate change, your tenacity, creativity and talents will be needed more now than ever in the years and decades ahead,” Block said. “I encourage you to hold on to a sense of public mindedness, civic duty, of the need to contribute to the greater good.”
At the conclusion of the program, Murthy invited all graduates to turn their tassels and don their hoods following the conferral of all degrees. Triple Bruin Henry Samueli, the school’s namesake, then joined other alumni, faculty, staff and fellow students in offering messages of congratulations. The school also has made a Kudoboard for family and friends to post and share congratulatory messages.
The 57th UCLA Samueli commencement ceremony is available to watch on the school’s YouTube channel and its 2021 commencement website — the full-length video and eight shorter versions, featuring graduates from their own academic department and from the school-wide master of science online program.