Working Class: CSU Dominguez Hills Commencement Highlights Diversity of Graduates and Their Education
Nearly 3,500 students at California State University, Dominguez Hills were eligible to graduate on May 21 in ceremonies at the Home Depot Center Tennis Stadium. Four ceremonies throughout the day highlighted the university’s five colleges in smaller, more intimate celebrations than in past years. A variety of speakers congratulated the Class of 2010, sending them forth with words of hope and encouragement.
The College of Business Administration and Public Policy began graduation day with greetings from President Mildred García, who congratulated the assembled graduates and commended their families and friends for their contributions to the students’ academic success.
“We are very proud of the work you have done to be here today,” said García. “We are also proud to have fulfilled our promise of providing you with a CSU education—a degree that will serve you as you begin the next stage of your life.”
Henry Cisneros, executive chairman of CityView and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, received an honorary doctorate from the CSU system. In his keynote address, he underscored the importance of education in America, dating back to the days of the Reconstruction after the Civil War and through decades of economic crisis, wars abroad, and the fight for civil rights.
“They knew that in the darkest moment of American history, the answer was in creating higher education,” Cisneros said. “That’s been the American story. And Cal State Dominguez Hills is directly in the line of that tradition. This is the new kind of land grant, the urban institution, that is making a difference in its community and generating the kind of talent this [nation] needs.”
During the ceremony for the College of Arts and Humanities, Richard Townsend, president and CEO of the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach described his career in the art world and gave students advice on thinking outside of the box.
“I’d like to share with you one quality that might be of use to you that has helped me to fulfill my dream of a successful career in the arts, and that would be tenacity,” he said. “Especially in our current economic climate, where first and second attempts are no longer enough, this is essential. If one approach to a problem doesn’t work, try another.”
The College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Extended and International Education combined for one ceremony with keynote speaker Dr. David Meyer, president and CEO of LA BioMed. He outlined the challenge that graduates would face as scientists and researchers through what he called the nation’s current “misrepresentation of science and medicine… being used for political and economic advantage.”
“In the movies and on television, researchers are vilified as mad scientists, playing God, or portrayed as everything from simple geeks to dangerous sociopaths,” said Meyer. “My message to you today, graduates, is to urge you to take up the challenge of combating scientific illiteracy and the marginalization and mistrust of scientists. You must play a role in the education system and help keep the teaching of science a priority for all age groups and ensure that what is taught is accurate. You must become spokespersons to impart the facts to a skeptical populace.”
At the final ceremony of the day, for the College of Professional Studies, Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D- 55th Dist.) served as keynote speaker and assisted in presenting honorary degrees to Louise Isako Miyake Morita and Terushi Naritoku, two Japanese Americans whose education on CSU campuses was disrupted during World War II when they were sent to concentration camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The author of Assembly Bill 37, which called the CSU, the University of California, and California community colleges to bestow these honorary degrees, Furutani said that the measure has “provided us with an opportunity to… fix dreams that were deferred and have them become a reality.” The legislator also raised the specter of Japanese American concentration camps and drew parallels to current events such as new immigration laws in the state of Arizona.
“If we don’t learn from past mistakes, we’re very likely to do them again,” said Furutani. “At different times in our history, people have had to endure certain types of stereotyping and profiling. The important lesson learned is to make sure that everybody understands that the fundamental strength of us as a nation is our diversity. No matter the color of your skin, the texture of your hair, the slant of your eye; where you worship, what you think… we’re all Americans.”
Like the university itself, commencement this year ran a wide gamut in the age of graduates, from Morita and Norituku, 89 and 90 respectively, to a 13-year-old biology major.
Additionally. the tradition of diversity at CSU Dominguez Hills was evident in a special group who marched with the Class of 2010 in the first ceremony of the day. Thirty-four alumni returned to their alma mater to commemorate their own graduation days and the university’s 50th anniversary.
“CSU Dominguez Hills celebrating its 50th anniversary is a huge milestone for the university and this would not be possible without the generous support of alumni,” said Porsche Gordon, director of Alumni Programs. “Commencement is one of the most important days for Dominguez Hills students, and this is an opportunity for alumni to share in that experience.”
Joy Masha (Class of ’10, B.A., human services) president of ASI, underscored the importance of alumni giving back to CSU Dominguez Hills. Along with her warm congratulations to the Class of 2010, she urged them to give back to their university after achieving their goals.
“As you go on, whether you continue your education or enter the workforce, whether you become a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, even a politician – whatever you do, make sure you give back,” she said. “As you go and make your millions of dollars, which I know many of you will, donate back to Dominguez Hills so that others can have the same opportunities you have had. It is important that we keep this legacy alive.”
Romel Edmond (Class of ’10, B.A. English) hopes to put his degree to use right away in order to fulfill his ambitions. While preparing to earn his millions, he will also be pursuing his master’s degree in public administration at CSU Dominguez Hills.
“I applied for a great job the day before graduation and have an interview scheduled next week,” said Edmond, an aspiring political writer who works with websites and social media. “I have to thank the many organizations and programs that thoroughly prepared us for our careers.
“At Cal State Dominguez there is a true reflection of the real world that cannot exist at other universities,” he concluded. “It is very much a working class university where we learn about our respective subjects as well as learn how to adjust to joining the work force.”
For videos of all of the commencement ceremonies created by Distance Learning, click here.
- Joanie Harmon
Photos above: Emeritus professor of history Donald Hata and professor of nursing Laura Inouye escort the Nisei honorary degree recipients to the platform at the final commencement ceremony of the day.