Congratulations UC Santa Cruz Class of 2020!

June 05, 2020

By The Division of Student Success’ Media & Communications Team  

In the face of an adverse academic year filled with power outages, campus closures, strikes, and now emergency remote learning, the UC Santa Cruz Class of 2020 has remained resilient and successfully made their way to graduation.

2018 Commencement
A flashback to graduates at the Quarry Amphitheater during
Commencement 2018.
This year’s ceremonies will take place
remotely due to precautions for COVID-19.

We are proud of all of our graduates. It is not easy to finish college in the best of circumstances and they made it through trying times. It means a lot to them as well as their families, friends, campus staff, and instructors.

A whole new way to graduate

Across the nation, schools are adapting their commencement ceremonies, postponing in-person graduations, and coming up with creative online solutions such as UC Berkeley’s online Minecraft commencement. Nationally, universities are looking to the students to find out what they want for themselves.

On April 10, Chancellor Cynthia Larive announced the cancellation of an in-person commencement ceremony due to remote instruction continuing through summer. As part of developing an alternative celebration, over 2,200 graduating students responded to a survey asking for input on what the graduates would like to see from the campus.

Based on the survey responses from students and families, 35.23% of students preferred having both a virtual commencement in June 2020 and an in-person commencement when it is safe to reconvene. 

survey results from commencement

This feedback was discussed alongside recommendations from the Commencement 2020 Working Group and Steering Committee, which led to the decision for a virtual commencement to be held the weekend of Saturday, June 13, and Sunday, June 14.

Over the two days, the ten colleges will have ceremonies and the following commencement celebrations will be held: the Chicanx/Latinx Year-End Celebration, Black Grad, and Engineering Commencement Celebration. See a full schedule on the UCSC commencement website.

#First-gen college grad

Alongside these ceremonies, other student-serving groups on campus such as the First Generation Initiative have begun holding their own celebrations as well. 

On May 27, the First Generation Initiative held a “First Gen Graduation Celebration” allowing for students to interact with one another and share their experiences as first gen graduating UC Santa Cruz students. “The event made me feel even more proud of being first-gen,” a student attendee said of the event.

The celebration included reflection activities and two guest speakers, associate professor in Psychology, Rebecca Covarrubias, co-lead of the First Generation initiative, and Nicole Bergeron, Jacques M. Littlefield Foundation adviser, a founding donor of the program. Graduating first-gen students received #FIRSTGEN COLLEGE GRAD t-shirts and buttons. A congratulatory video with well-wishes from staff and faculty was shared (below). 

Christina, one of the authors of this article, attended and felt the power of the Santa Cruz community. “I felt the love and support from other first-gen students, their families, professors, staff, and faculty. I feel that I will now be able to conquer any challenges that I face being first-gen. No matter how hard and challenging the situation, first-gen students are resilient and we have a whole UC Santa Cruz community here to support us.”

Reflecting on the journey

After graduation, banana slugs will be entering a whole new part of their lives. We had a chance to interview a number of graduates who shared their thoughts about their time at UC Santa Cruz and what comes next.

"It’s bittersweet," they said, "Empowering." "It’s been a fun ride," one noted.

“I am super excited to start on a new journey," noted graduating senior Sophia Kang (College Ten, Psychology ’20), "but I'm definitely going to miss the community I made at Santa Cruz.” Kang further shared, being part of different organizations in UC Santa Cruz such as Random With a Purpose and ESLP (Education for Sustainable Living Program) taught her to be patient, listen to other people, and work to understand their ideas. In short, Kang said, we learn to be more open-minded.

students walking in ucscAnother student said that being in the redwood forest and hiking from class to class is something they are going to miss. The serenity and calmness that UC Santa Cruz embraces is like no other experience, one noted. 

Two graduates from College Ten said that the CORE class that they took their first year really opened their eyes to social justice issues and gave them diverse perspectives about the complex society in which we live, especially because they both grew up in smaller rural towns. 

UC Santa Cruz has equipped and helped me build relationships with friends and different community members and professors, another student added. “UC Santa Cruz gave me a safe space where I can be proactive.”

This year without a doubt was a year filled with many obstacles. In the fall quarter, we had numerous blackouts with PG&E, winter quarter was a period of COLA strikes, and spring there was COVID and now protests all over America. Truly a trying time for everyone, especially for graduating seniors as they try to navigate and figure out what their next steps in life should be.

Noted one student, “despite the challenges, I feel like UC Santa Cruz students are warriors! No matter what type of situation we are being thrown in, we find ways to overcome it and make it work because we value community, and work collectively as one and not only care about our individual needs.” This student noted that “UC Santa Cruz students share a strong sense of empathy for one another and embody what it means to be a good citizen, exercising their agency.” This senior said that this is why they are not afraid of the problems that lie ahead.

Words of encouragement 

“I think something really important to remember at this time is that it’s okay to be feeling both sides of the coin:  feelings of both grief and loss for the time lost, the experiences, and lack of 'wrap-up' in the way you envisioned things would end,” says Lexi, a College Nine and Ten Academic Adviser. “But on the same side, there is room to celebrate and to acknowledge having achieved this huge milestone that a pandemic can't take away from you... nobody can ever take away from you.”

“For the vast majority of people graduating from college, uncertainty is at the helm of that experience,” says Lexi. “You have the tools and the skills that you need and an incredibly valuable education at your back, especially that UC education. You've tapped into this network for life, one that will always [support] you. It is about positivity and belief in yourself.”

Psychology professor Adriana Manago shared the following words of encouragement: “What a historical moment in time to be graduating from college. I can only imagine the mixture of feelings you must be navigating right now: disappointment and sadness about canceled celebrations and plans, as well as fear and despair about the state of our society and your future in it. Nevertheless, this is also a time of celebration and you deserve to feel pride and joy for all that you have accomplished at UC Santa Cruz. Many of you have overcome difficult challenges over these past four years while discovering new possibilities and passions for critically and compassionately engaging with your communities. I say, feel all the feelings! Embrace the emotional complexities coming your way to deepen your understanding of yourself and the unique contributions you will make to change the world. Congratulations and love to UCSC class of 2020. We are all so proud of you!”

Throughout this quarter, many groups such as the Career CenterSOMeCA and SSERC have been offering students approaching graduation with workshops and panels on career pathways and opportunities, and tips on resume writing and interview preparation all aimed at guiding graduating students in finding careers during this time of uncertainty.

On May 27, SOMeCA held Follow Your Dreams: Career and Life Choices in 2020, a workshop that allowed students to meet in conversation with eight successful UC Santa Cruz alumni who developed their careers in the midst of the 2008 recession.

“This [is] an incredibly powerful moment for building resilience and also building community,” says Lexi. “Remember that you can lean on one another. You can lean on your mentors, you can lean on your friends, your teachers, your peers. Once you graduate, those connections don’t go away.”

Fiat Slug!

Congratulations Class of 2020, you made it! 

The UCSC Career Center has virtual job search resources to support your post-grad career (read more about how the Career Center continues to support students in uncertain times here).

Update your preferred contact information on the Alumni Association website to stay connected with relevant campus news and information. You can also sign up for a free Alumni ID Card and access alumni benefits.

We wish you all the best for the future.

Stay in touch!