Nearly a thousand graduating seniors from all six colleges gathered on RIMAC Field Friday night for the 7th Annual All Campus Graduation Celebration. The event offered students a time to relax, reunite and reminisce with friends and family while being treated to appetizers from local food vendors and a concert by San Diego rock band Pinback.
Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla began the program by sharing the story of Roger Revelle, a founder of UC San Diego, and how his tenacity and persistence allowed him to overcome many obstacles. Congratulating the students, he encouraged each to make a difference in the world and never give up.
“We are extremely proud of the work you have put in and everything you have accomplished,” said Khosla. “Your presence on our campus, your interaction with our faculty, has changed us for the better, and I hope we in turn changed you for the better.”
During the ceremony, two students were recognized for extraordinary scholarship, leadership, community service and contributions to student life. A standout leader and tireless health education promoter, Damini Tandon was named this year’s Outstanding Senior. A bioengineering-biotechnology major graduating from Warren College, Tandon served as president of Student Health Advocates, a peer health education program, and took the initiative to lead FITstop—free fitness tests for students. Passionate about improving medical care access, Tandon served as a patient assistance volunteer for the UC San Diego School of Medicine Student-Run Free Health Clinic and plans on applying to medical school to become a surgeon.
The Outstanding Graduate student award went to Michael M. Porter, a doctoral candidate in the department of materials science at the Jacobs School of Engineering. Finishing his Ph.D. in just three years, Porter focused his research on flexible robotics inspired by natural systems. In addition to being an exceptional scholar, he is a highly rated teaching assistant. Many of his undergraduate mentees became co-authors on his publications. In the community, he reached out to young students about science and engineering, speaking at local elementary and high schools. Upon graduation, he will continue to build upon his work in bio-inspired design as assistant professor in mechanical engineering at Clemson University.
“I am honored to be recognized by the university for my accomplishments,” said Porter. “During my time at UC San Diego, I learned to bring together and lead diverse international teams of students, faculty and staff to conduct research in multidisciplinary environments and effectively communicate our findings to the greater global community. My goal as a lifetime academic is to inspire future generations of scientists and engineers to explore their passions and curiosities for the advancement of knowledge and a more sustainable future.”
Following the program, students flocked to their favorite food vendors, from Lemongrass to Churros El Tigre and Nothing Bundt Cakes. Dubbed “The Happiest Hour,” the event this year was designed to be a social hour where students could reminisce prior to formal graduation festivities. The San Diego-based rock band Pinback entertained the crowd while students gathered to dance and mingle in front of the stage.
“The All Campus Graduation Celebration is an opportunity for seniors from across campus to celebrate—along with parents, family and friends—before being broken up into their respective colleges for formal commencements,” said Alex Kushner, director of the University Events Office. “This year, the event was structured as an informal social hour where students could reconnect with some of their favorite local food vendors and San Diego musical acts like Pinback.”
As the sun set, students wrapped themselves in commemorative Class of 2014 beach towels, given to the first 500 student attendees. Throughout the evening, seniors crisscrossed the field as they spotted friends, embracing and sharing memories. Reflecting on the past four years and thinking about the future, seniors Lorato Anderson, Ximena Cruz and Natalie Lomayesva—who met several years ago as members of the track and field team—expressed both excitement and apprehension about graduating, from “nervous,” to “in denial” and “hasn’t hit.”
Added senior Ereca Nguyen, “This is the last opportunity to see everyone before graduation. It’s great to see people you haven’t seen since freshman year.”