6,867 undergraduate and graduate UC Santa Barbara students will walk across the graduation stage in just over a week, receiving recognition for years of work both in the classroom and outside it.
But many of those will also attend alternative graduations — special ceremonies aimed at celebrating the triumphs and successes of minority or underrepresented groups on campus. These special ceremonies are held every year apart from the traditional walk, in recognition of the unique struggles these students face.
The majority of the alternative graduation ceremonies will be held in the next two weeks; several of them are profiled below.
Transfer Student Graduation:
As emphasized by former University-Owned Off-Campus Senator and Transfer Student Graduation Chair Anthony Hernandez, “transfer students have a lot of barriers to overcome to get to [UCSB].”
“I know [for] Latinx and Black students, only 50% of them in community college graduate within three years. So for [transfer students] to even be in this position [to graduate], especially people of color, it’s so monumental. It really takes a lot for us to get here and to even graduate from a four-year institution,” he explained.
“I don’t think a lot of us expect [to graduate].”
So for Hernandez, and for the numerous transfer students graduating with the class of 2019, the Transfer Student Graduation is an “acknowledge[ment] that we did beat the statistics and that we are here. You achieved this. You deserve it.”
This is the second year the Transfer Student Graduation has been held. Last year, the Transfer Student Graduation welcomed around 50 students; this year’s will see over 120, according to Hernandez.
The current Transfer Student Graduation Committee is mainly led by fourth-years Neyra Patricio, Katherin Jordan, Sophie Weimer and Hernandez; the committee began planning for graduation during Winter Quarter, according to Hernandez.
Last year’s budget to hold the entire graduation was $200. This year’s is $2,000, an improvement Hernandez attributes to the Transfer Student Alliance’s transformation from an organization to an Associated Students Boards, Commission and Units (BCU).
To Hernandez and Patricio, having a transfer student graduation is incredibly important in a number of ways, but particularly because of the unique and shared experiences that transfer students go through.
“Just because [the ceremony is] different. Most transfer students only have transfer friends, at least the people that I know, so getting to have a graduation ceremony with people that you know [is good], especially because a lot of transfers value it.”
“We’re all really nervous for it to get here, but we also want it to get here.”
Hernandez, who was also involved in the planning of the Transfer Student Graduation during its first year, echoed Patricio’s sentiments.
He added that being on Senate with the 69th Senate and working on the Transfer Student Alliance allowed him to see students “get rewarded for all the hard work they’ve done.”
“Seeing it last year, how it impacted and how it meant so much to many students… There’s literally people crying [at the ceremony] and it was very emotional and very intense, but it was good,” he said.
Both Hernandez and Patricio hope the tradition of a transfer student graduation ceremony continues after they both leave UCSB.
“I hope we built the tradition and it keeps on going,” he added.
This year’s ceremony will be held on June 14 in Bren Courtyard at 5 p.m. There will also be a reception at 6:30 p.m.
Lavender Graduation and Pride Awards:
The Lavender Graduation — a graduation ceremony dedicated toward UCSB students who identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community — has been running for 19 years.
This ceremony, alongside the Pride Awards, has served as an “integral part” of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD), according to UCSB alumnus ‘18 and RCSGD Programming Coordinator Dwayne Mosbey, who helped plan this year’s ceremony.
“[The Lavender Graduation] began to create a space for queer and trans students, especially when they were entering spaces they didn’t necessarily feel comfortable in or within an insitution they didn’t feel was serving them,” Mosbey said.
The planning of this year’s ceremony was a “collaborative effort” between Mosbey, RCSGD Director Craig Leets and Associative Director Quinn Solis.
Mosbey explained that in previous years, the Pride Awards used to be separate; this year, they were “rolled together” because both are “made to recognize queer and trans students’ resilience and academic achievement.”
“We thought it’d be great for those two to be coupled together,” Mosbey said.
The graduation ceremony itself is modeled similarly to the typical UCSB graduation, Mosbey said. The ceremony will see graduates “walk” into the Student Resource Building forum, following a welcome ceremony with a number of speakers, which typically includes the vice chancellor, a keynote speaker and a student speaker.
Mosbey said there are typically 30 to 35 people who partake in the ceremony; this year saw an uptick, rounding out to 45 students. Last year, Mosbey himself was one of the people who walked in the Lavender Graduation ceremony.
“It allows the chance for queer and trans students to be recognized outside of the larger ceremony, and [anyone] can come to the Lavender Graduation. [They can express] their most gender expression and gender identity and feel comfortable with it.”
Students can wear whatever they want and can also decorate their gowns and caps — “This is all about making sure [queer and trans students] feel comfortable and that they feel recognized.”
All graduates who go through the Lavender Graduation ceremony are awarded purple cords, while folks who work at the RCSGD and people who win awards receive rainbow tassels.
The number of awards also varies, depending on the number of nominations. This year, 13 awards will be handed out, according to Mosbey.
Mosbey hopes students who go through the ceremony will take away one key thing: “We’re allowing that space for them to feel supported, [so they] know that throughout their college career, the queer and trans community was here for them.”
“And that we will continue to be here for them even after they graduate.”
This year’s Lavender Graduation will happen on June 9 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. in the Student Resource Building forum.
Anthony Bolden, a fourth-year biopsychology major and the undergraduate speaker for this year’s Black Graduation, said he almost turned down the opportunity to speak at this year’s ceremony.
“I was kind of hesitant, just because I do have pretty good experience with public speaking, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to add that [burden] on for myself,” he said. “But then [the offer] gave me a little bit of moment of clarity, because I got a chance to look back and see how far I’ve really come.”
“I kind of realized that it was a little bit humbling,” Bolden added.
Bolden is one of the 55 Black undergraduate and graduate students who will be participating in this year’s Black Graduation ceremony on Saturday, June 15 at noon.
Michael Stallworth, co-chair of the organizing committee and second-year sociology and Black studies double major, said it’s important for Black students to have a space where they can come together and celebrate their achievements.
“The educational system wasn’t really built for people of color in general, but for Black students, we really had to fight for us to have our identity be present on campus,” Stallworth said.
This ceremony is a way for Black students to do just that.
Stallworth said the ceremony will have a mix of student speakers as well as spoken word, musical performances and slideshows of the students.
Professor Jeffrey Stewart, from UCSB’s Department of Black Studies, and Professor R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy from New York University’s Department of Applied Statistics, Social Science and Humanities, are the two faculty speakers. Meridith Merchant, a psychologist from Counseling and Psychological Services, is the closing speaker.
Stallworth believes the speakers’ words will leave an impression on the graduating students and is looking forward to hearing from them all.
“[The speech is] sending a message and it’s setting the tone for someone’s life,” he said. “I think it’s just really important to have speakers that really motivate and empower students.”
Stallworth is also happy to see the graduates — many of whom have helped him in his two years at UCSB — step off the stage and onto a new chapter after college.
“[I’m] also just excited to see all the Black grads and be able to celebrate them because I think it’s amazing how they’ve been really mentors for me throughout my time here at UCSB. I get to see them go off, and I get to follow in their footsteps.”
Bolden echoed Stallworth’s words, naming several other students who will be graduating alongside him as inspirations over the past few years.
In addition to talking about the achievements of the Black community at UCSB over the past few years, Bolden said he wants to highlight the growth of individual students like Zenzile Riddick and Kuvimbanashe “Eddie” Chikukwa.
“This class of Black grads is phenomenal. One of my hallmates, she’s going to freakin’ Harvard, that’s amazing, Zenzile. Since first year, I knew she was going to be amazing,” Bolden said.
Bolden said he’s proud to have seen everyone’s growth over the past four years and where they’re all headed.
“I’m proud to be part of the 5% that has come through here. I definitely recognize that a lot of people don’t have such a positive outlook of UCSB like I have, not everyone’s been blessed with the great experience that I’ve had here,” he said.
“[But] after coming here, I think that my pride in being a Black man has done nothing but grown exponentially, because I feel like I’m representing my own people here.”
A special part of the ceremony for Bolden is the fact that a large portion of the Black graduates participating in the ceremony lived together in the Black Scholars Hall in Santa Rosa during their first year.
“We need to be around each other and enjoy each other’s presence and see each other’s faces and see us finish through,” he said.
At typical graduation ceremonies, it’s easy for Black students to feel like less of a community, Bolden said.
“Seeing us spread so thin isn’t the same, isn’t nearly as powerful for us being together, having our own space, our own ceremony, our own opportunity to recognize one another.”
Bolden said his speech at the Black Graduation ceremony will be one of the first times his family will see him in an academic setting.
“Now this is an opportunity for me to show [my mom] what I’ve been doing this whole time.”
The Chicanx/Latinx Graduation ceremony is just as much about the community behind students as it is about the graduating students themselves, two of the organizers said.
Yesenia Cardenas, a fifth-year chemistry major, and Jessica Arenas, a fourth-year global studies major, agreed their favorite part of the ceremony is when the students walk into Harder Stadium.
Students are asked to bring two people to walk them in as live mariachi music plays in the background and photographers snap photos of them, the two said.
“A lot of students, they feel like they get their degree for family too, so it’s nice that you can walk up there, it’s almost like they’re walking up there with you,” Cardenas said.
Both Arenas and Cardenas sit on an 11-member organizing committee that begins its work one full year before graduation.
This year’s cabinet, which organized the 45th Chicanx/Latinx Graduation being held on Saturday, June 15, 2019 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., was dedicated to giving more voice to graduating students throughout the whole process, Cardenas and Arenas both said.
“This year we’ve been focusing a lot on being inclusive of Central American identities because that’s a prominent issue, the erasure of Central Americans,” Arenas said.
While UCSB is recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Arenas said it can be hard to actually feel that they are supported or represented on campus.
“As a first-generation student, it’s hard to navigate higher education, and sometimes you don’t see people that look like you, in your classroom settings or even in your living settings sometimes,” Arenas said.
“I feel like most students enjoy the Chicanx/Latinx Graduation because it celebrates their identity and also their cultural background. They aren’t represented in classrooms, but they do feel represented in the graduation.”
In addition to infusing the ceremony with various cultural elements, the committee works to ensure that the ceremony caters to family members who attend.
The ceremony, held in Harder Stadium, will have over 500 students walking the stage. A lot of those students are first-generation and have parents who don’t speak English, Cardenas said, so they will have a translator present so their parents can follow along as well.
“From my personal experience, my parents don’t really know what I do here, they just know that I go to school and I’m studying,” Arenas laughed.
Both Arenas and Cardenas said that while friends and family back home might not understand what they’re studying, they’re still very proud of them.
“I’d rather them understand the ceremony than just sitting there and see all these names called out. At least with [Chicanx/Latinx Graduation] there’s performances and Spanish,” Arenas said.
Undocumented Student Services:
The monarch butterfly, adorning a pin which many undocumented graduating students will be wearing as they walk the stage, is a symbol of migration, Undocumented Student Services Coordinator Diana Valdivia said.
“To wear this pin is to recognize the impact migration has had in your life experiences. This pin is a small token of your resiliency and accomplishments,” a small note accompanying the pin reads.
Undocumented Student Services began to distribute the pins to graduating undocumented students last year, Valdivia said. The pins are meant to recognize both undocumented students and others who participate in the services’ programs.
At its year-end ceremony, the service recognizes different student leaders for their work and advocacy in the undocumented student community on campus.
This year, Valdivia said they had approximately 30 students graduating, compared to around 25 last year.
“It’s good to know for [undocumented students] that they’re graduating, that they’re not the only one that is graduating that has been through this,” she said.
This year, the service also handed out separate pins for students to give to their loved ones and supporters, one of which reads “Proud Immigrant Dad of a Graduating Senior.”
“We recognize that students get pins, get stoles and then we also know that it took a community effort to have folks graduate,” Valdivia said.
In the future, Valdivia said they hope to find a way to recognize students who may not be undocumented themselves but have family members or loved ones who are.