CSUN’s Class of 2019-2020 worked too hard — and overcame too many challenges — not to celebrate the completion of this chapter in their academic journey, at least virtually.
The spring 2020 semester wrapped up this month like no other in the nearly 62-year history of CSUN. The way CSUN seniors responded proved what Matadors always have known about themselves: They are dedicated, hard-working, humble, ambitious and tenacious. Through it all, they have reached their goal — completing a degree.
CSUN is planning to hold an in-person graduation celebration when it is safe to do so, a strong preference expressed by students. But the campus community couldn’t end the 2019-2020 academic year without cheering the Class of 2019-2020, even if those cheers rang out over the internet. On Saturday, May 16, CSUN honored the 11,790 students eligible to graduate with a “Cheers to the Class of 2019-2020” virtual celebration.
The desire for celebration was evident. Graduates shared photos of themselves in caps, gowns and personalized sashes — taken in their homes, at some of Southern California’s stunning landscapes and in front of virtual backgrounds provided by the CSUN Library. On social media, students posted “We did it!” messages, and their loved ones posted emotional tributes to sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, spouses and parents who toiled to overcome challenges both personal and global.
CSUN honored its newest graduates with a video that included messages from university leaders and famous alumni, as well as a performance of the alma mater, “Hail to the Matadors,” by Xochitl Hernandez ’20 (Music – Vocal Arts). Nearly 1,200 people watched the video immediately after it was posted, a number that has risen to more than 15,000 since.
The video included messages from CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison, Associated Students President Diana Vicente ’20 (Marketing), Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students William Watkins and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Mary Beth Walker.
Harrison raised a glass to the graduates and praised their resolve in the face of historic adversity. By graduating, she said, students have elevated themselves and their families.
“Along with your education from CSUN, your fierce spirit and perseverance will serve you well as you go through life,” Harrison said. “If universities gave degrees in tenacity, you would all have double or triple majors. You are trailblazers and leaders. And your impact on our world is needed now more than ever.”
Watkins traditionally welcomes graduates and their families to CSUN’s commencement ceremonies. He played that role as part of the virtual “cheers.”
“You’re finishing strong in what was a very difficult and challenging semester,” Watkins said. “I invite you to take a deep breath, pause, and reflect on all the hard work and the determination that was required of you in order for you to complete your degree.”
Surprise guests included notable alumni Serj Tankian ’89 (Marketing), a musician and producer best known as lead singer of the rock band System of a Down, and singer-songwriter and actor Aijia Grammer, who recently competed on “The Voice,” who appeared with her husband, singer/songwriter/producer Andy Grammer ’07 (Music).
Vicente struck an optimistic note, calling on her fellow Matadors to build a better world as they face today’s challenges head-on.
“It wasn’t easy, and as I look into our future, we have a long way to go,” Vicente said. “But I have no fear. There is uncertainty, but I stand hopeful. Our students will be the ones leading our tomorrow.”
To help graduates receive virtual graduation portraits, student assistants in the CSUN Library’s Creative Media Studio Photoshopped photos submitted by graduates like Briana Alexis Martinez onto virtual backgrounds. (The studio is still providing this virtual portrait service until June 1: https://library.csun.edu/wish-you-were-here.)
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