Bold Hearts, Brilliant Minds Characterize CNAS Class of 2023 at Commencement

UCR’s 69th graduating class were celebrated at two commencement ceremonies at Toyota Arena in Ontario, CA on June 20.

In her remarks, Kathryn Uhrich, Dean, College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences and Professor of Chemistry, asked for a show of hands of students graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. “If you look around,” she said, “we should have about 735 students raising their hands.” She added that another 74 students were graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology. “As a collective group, consider the impact that the entire CNAS class of 2023 will have” Dean Uhrich said. “Between both CNAS commencement ceremonies, that’s more than 1,600 graduating students!”

The academic procession in both ceremonies was led by the UCR Pipe Band dressed in tartans. Presiding over the morning session were Academic Senate Chair Sang-Hee Lee, who served as Grand Marshal, Undergraduate Student Marshal and Biology degree candidate Somtochukwu Adaobi Uzoka, and Faculty Marshal Connie Nugent, Divisional Dean of Student Academic Affairs. ,

The afternoon session was presided over again by Grand Marshal Sang-Hee Lee; Graduate Student Marshal and Statistics degree candidate Christian Daniel Duenas, Undergraduate Student Marshal and Biochemistry degree candidate William Satoh Troxel, and Faculty Marshal Stephanie Dingwall, Professor of Teaching, Biochemistry.

Singing the National Anthem in the morning was Chermaine Tac-Al Amaya, a Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology degree candidate. The anthem was sung by Tammy Le Van, a Neuroscience degree candidate, in the afternoon.

Dean Uhrich reminded graduates and their families of the original caretakers of the land, water and air that makes up UCR – the indigenous peoples, Cahuilla, Tongva, Luiseño, and Serrano – and of all their ancestors and descendants, past, present, and future. “Today the UCR campus is home to many Indigenous peoples from all over the world, including UCR faculty, students, and staff, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to live and work on these homelands,” she said.

In his remarks, the ninth Chancellor of UCR, Kim A. Wilcox, expounded on what Abraham Lincoln once referred to as “the mystic chords of memory” and how they are the ties that bind generations of CNAS graduates together. He told the students of a recent reunion of the Pioneer Class of UCR that dates back to 1954, and said that many in that class remembered putting wooden planks on the ground to keep their feet out of the mud after a rain as they trekked to class.

“Every class contributes to our university,” Chancellor Wilcox said. “But some classes are special. That first class was special. But so too is this class – a class that endured the greatest pandemic in the world, had to think about classes and then think about going home and about coming back safely. All the uncertainties that happened during your college career make you special because of the resilience you’ve shown to get here today.”

According to Dean Uhrich, CNAS has been driven by excellence in inclusivity, strengthening the support and resources for students in Master’s and Doctoral programs and the science of sustainability — sharing, educating, and informing our local, regional, and global communities of our research to improve our world. “As I stand here with you today,” she said, “I can’t help but reflect on the impact that each of you will have on the world around us in these very same areas.”

The Best of the Best
During commencement, several students were cited for outstanding achievements. Advyth Ramachandran '23, a Biology degree candidate, was recognized with the Outstanding Achievement Award for exemplary work that encompassed academics as well as service and citizenship. Cheyenne Darrow and Joshua Wong were given the Rosemary S.J. Schraer Award which recognizes academic excellence in seniors and 15 CNAS graduates, selected by faculty, won Biochemistry Academic Excellence Awards. 

Leonard Lloyd Padilla, valedictorian of the 2023 University Honors Graduating Class, gave the student commencement address in the morning session. Anviksha Srivastava, Biochemistry degree candidate, had the honor of giving the address in the afternoon. (See the accompanying story about these two outstanding CNAS students.)

Dean Uhrich remarked that each and every CNAS student graduating has had an impact on the college as a whole. “During your time at UCR, you were instrumental in helping the National Science Foundation rank us No. 3 in Hispanic STEM graduates in the nation,” she said. In addition, Dean Uhrich said that for the last four years, U.S. News & World Report ranked UCR as the No. 1 public university in the U.S. for social mobility. 

“And just the other day, Chancellor Wilcox announced a major milestone,” she added. “UCR joins the very best of the best in higher education -- the Association of American Universities, or AAU. Know that you and your faculty played a significant role in UCR becoming an AAU institution.”

After conferring the degrees and the traditional Baccalaureate Tassel-Turning, conducted at the morning ceremony by Thaniya Shankar, a Biology (Law & Society minor) degree candidate and Syreze-Sky De Leon San Andres, a Neuroscience (Environmental Science minor) degree candidate in the afternoon, Tammy Le Van, a Neuroscience degree candidate, led the graduates in singing UCR’s Alma Mater at both sessions.

Dean Uhrich said that the work students do with faculty accounts for nearly 50% of all grants and contracts to UCR, a figure totaling nearly $100 million last year alone. 

“What a historic moment for UCR and CNAS, and each of you are a huge part of that,” she said. “There is no question that you are leaving a legacy here. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for all of you.”

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