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University of La Verne Graduates 2,337 in First Virtual Commencement

Spread across thousands of miles and dressed not in cap and gown but in whatever suited their fancy, 2,337 graduates of the University of La Verne celebrated their achievements in the university’s first-ever virtual commencement live-streamed on January 30. The graduates were in the spring 2020 and winter 2021 classes. They studied in four colleges—the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and Public Management, the LaFetra College of Education, and the College of Law. Each college held its own virtual ceremony.

While the students may not have had a traditional walk-across-the-stage commencement, they were not empty-handed. Gift boxes went out from the university’s Office of Alumni Engagement to the graduates. Included were a champagne flute, an alumni license plate frame, a diploma cover, and a graduation tassel, among other items. So when President Devorah Lieberman invited graduates to celebrate their achievement, they had a literal glass to raise, along with other swag to make their day more special.

President Lieberman told the graduates that “at this time, when our world is steeped in ambiguity and uncertainty, now is the time for all of us to embrace the optimism of our future—a focus on hope, strength, and resilience.”

Keynote speakers brought a wide range of experience to the ceremonies. Camila Chavez, speaking for the College of Arts and Sciences, is the daughter of Dolores Huerta and niece of the late Cesar Chavez, co-founders of United Farm Workers of America, and is the executive director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Alumnus Jarrod McNaughton, MBA ’00, chief executive officer of Inland Empire Health Plan, addressed his new fellow alumni of the College of Business and Public Management. Ana Guerrero, chief of staff to the mayor of Los Angeles, spoke to graduates of the LaFetra College of Education. And attorney David Goldstein keynoted the College of Law ceremony.

Student speakers from each college shared their experiences and life lessons with their fellow graduates. Several told of being the first in their families to attend college. Madeline Ruiz, who served as president of the Associated Students of the University of La Verne in 2019-20, quoted her “wise, immigrant mother,” who told her, “’Your education is one of the only things that can never be taken away from you.’”

Graduate student speaker Caroline Le was one of the first 22 students to complete the university’s new Master of Science in Physician Assistant Practice program. She remarked that “Today, we are facing the worst pandemic in more than a century. Worldwide, millions of lives have been lost and we have all been affected one way or another.” Le continued, “But if we were able to finish our degrees through all this; virtual classrooms, hours in front of a screen, lockdowns, curfews, long days wearing masks or PPE, illnesses, and so many unforeseen hardships, then I believe we can endure and succeed at anything.

The new graduates join more than 85,000 University of La Verne alumni around the world.


Photos by Jeanine Hill

Screenshots collected by the University of La Verne