CNAS Class of ’24 Comes Together and Stands Apart at Commencement

Every graduating class from UC Riverside is special, but many of the students comprising the College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences’ 70th Commencement ceremony hold a select status that they share with few others. Academically, they came of age during a worldwide pandemic and all the challenges that stemmed from it.

The Class of 2024 that filed into the Toyota Arena in Ontario, CA on June 17th for the conferring of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees make up perhaps the last large group of students that were forced to put in the extra effort necessary to navigate the COVID pandemic. “For many of our graduates, the traditional rites of a high school graduation were not part of your experience,” said Peter Atkinson, CNAS Interim Dean, addressing the class. “Your initial years at UCR were characterized by remote learning, amidst one of the most trying periods of our history. To our transfer students and master’s students, you became part of the CNAS community as we were rediscovering life back on campus.”

CNAS 2024 Commencement Graduates

Dean Atkinson added that over the past few years, the Class of 2024 has navigated through difficult times with remarkable perseverance and commitment. “That is your legacy,” he said. “When history unfolds, future generations will look to you as beacons of resilience, a collective of young individuals who persevered and remained steadfast in their commitment to shaping their own future and the futures of those around them. You make us all proud.”

The academic procession was led by the UCR Pipe Band dressed in tartans. Presiding over the session were Grand Marshal Sang-Hee Lee (Academic Senate Chair); Undergraduate Student Marshal Ledia Amgad Nasr (Biochemistry degree candidate); Graduate Student Marshal Mahziar Khazaali (Cell, Molecular & Developmental Biology master‘s degree candidate), and Faculty Marshal Andrew B. Gray (Associate Professor of Watershed Hydrology, Environmental Sciences Department). The Flag Bearer was Linlin Liu (Statistics degree candidate).

In his remarks, the ninth Chancellor of UCR, Kim A. Wilcox, spoke about university life as being not about place but about the people that populate it – from faculty and staff to fellow students in the residence halls and in the classroom. “All of those people are what made a difference and help make you who and what you are today,” he said.

Chancellor Wilcox said that four years ago, the college couldn’t schedule convocation on campus to welcome new students. “If we had, I would have said to you: ‘You’re not coming to UCR, you are to become a part of UCR.’ Again, it’s the people who make our university all that it is.

“So today, you are a successful and inspiring part of UCR and you’re going to go from this place to all kinds of other places – other places geographically and figuratively in your lives and careers,” he added. “And you’re going to be a UCR grad carrying your experiences and all those interactions with all those other people to the rest of the world. We’re excited about you being our ambassadors. We know that you’ll do well and we look forward to having you come back many times to reacquaint and reconfirm your commitments to your university – back to this place.

During the Commencement ceremony, several students were cited for outstanding achievements. Peter Carney (Physics degree candidate) won the Outstanding Achievement Award which recognizes one CNAS student for their exemplary achievement in academics and research, their involvement in the college, and for their commitment to service and citizenship. Carney also shared honors with Alyssa Ashley Menor Fundal (Environmental Sciences and Psychology degree candidate) with the Rosemary S. J. Scharer Award which recognizes the academic excellence of two CNAS graduating seniors.

CNAS 2024 Commencement Graduates

CNAS students, selected by faculty, were honored with Academic Excellence Awards which are bestowed for achieving excellence in academics and research or creative activity. The award winners are: Andrea Barajas (Environmental Sciences), Emilia Lynn Marie Burnham (Entomology), Justin James Diab (Biology), Riley Hunke (Mathematics for Secondary School Teachers), Mitchell Howard Larsen (Plant Biology), Linlin Liu (Statistics), Ray Lopez-Amaya (Biology), Adelric Low (Data Science), Ibrahim Bassem Maaz (Biochemistry), Sudhir Gajanan Murthy (Mathematics), Kelli Nguyen (Cell, Molecular & Developmental Biology), Joshua Roth (Physics and Astronomy), Maricela Toops (Microbiology), Lena Williams (Chemistry), and Patrick James Williamson (Neuroscience).

Jennalyn Resendez (Cell, Molecular, Developmental Biology degree candidate) gave the student commencement address. She exhorted her fellow graduates to take away more than just the hard skills that look impressive on a resume, but to also consciously recognize the deeper things that their shared college experience has taught them and then build upon that knowledge. “You can do it by prioritizing your own personal growth and success,” she said, “by finding ways to continuously learn; challenging yourself to be better. Do the things that might scare you or the things that are out of your comfort zone because you never know, you might surprise yourself in the end.”

After conferring the degrees and the singing UCR’s Alma Mater, “Hail Fair UCR” performed by Nicolas Sanchez (Biochemistry degree candidate), Sara Doering (Environmental Science degree candidate) led the traditional Baccalaureate Tassel-Turning (always right to left).

Before the graduates filed out of the Toyota Arena to begin the next exciting phase of their lives, Dean Atkinson reminded them that the Class of 2024 is distinct, stamped in a way that very few classes have ever been. “Your attitude has been forged through these times,” he said. “As you seize your future, always remember: there's no goal beyond your reach, no obstacle you cannot overcome, and nothing that can impede your journey to success.” 

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