This past Saturday, we had the distinct privilege of recognizing our UC San Diego graduating Class of 2022 at the All Campus Commencement – in person. Resuming this joyous tradition presented an opportunity to reflect upon the challenges and triumphs that were unique to this particular graduating class. Two years of pandemic restrictions and public health precautions profoundly changed their college experience in ways no one could have anticipated.
We were delighted to welcome keynote speaker Dr. Jessica Meir, a NASA astronaut who earned her PhD from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Astronaut Meir made history when she participated in the first all-women space walk in 2019 during her 205-day mission aboard the International Space Station.
Dr. Meir delivered an uplifting, honest and insightful address that left our graduates excited about their futures. A prolific storyteller, she shared her experience leaving for the International Space Station in September 2019 and returning in spring of 2020 to an entirely different world. She jokingly referred to her return as “the ultimate quarantine.” She discussed the importance of persevering through inevitable failures and explained her personal experiences with overcoming imposter syndrome. She closed her speech by encouraging graduates to make meaningful efforts in their everyday lives to preserve and protect our fragile planet.
Dr. Meir presented UC San Diego with a Scripps Institution of Oceanography flag that flew with her in space. We will proudly display it on campus as a reminder to always reach for the stars.
On behalf of the UC San Diego community, I presented Dr. Meir with the institution’s highest honor, the UC San Diego Medal. Awarded only 15 times in our 62-year history, the UC San Diego Medal is reserved for significant life accomplishments. Recipients include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and Black Lives Matter co-founder and fellow UC San Diego alumna Alicia Garza.
Dr. Meir has entered history as a scientist, an astronaut, and as an ambassador of global collaboration. Her work is inspiring the next generation of scientists, astronauts and changemakers. Her commitment to excellence, collaboration and exploration truly exemplifies the Triton spirit.
We also welcomed an outstanding student speaker, Lucas Anthony Lima, to share a message of promoting acceptance, encouraging community support and embracing self-love to overcome obstacles. Lucas emphasized the role that his community of classmates, friends, mentors and family played in his life as he embraced his identity as a trans man during his college journey. He thanked the hundreds of people who have helped him along the way, including his beloved Triton community. I am proud of Lucas for being true to himself and for delivering an empowering message of solidarity, gratitude and inclusion, all of which we hold dear at UC San Diego.
We could not be prouder of the Class of 2022. You overcame unprecedented adversity to earn your degrees from the 8th best public university in the nation. You now join our diverse and successful alumni community of more than 225,000 fellow Tritons worldwide.
UC San Diego will forever be your home. Please return often to visit and enjoy your campus. Share your successes with us throughout your career, and be sure to help mentor future graduates when you can. As a famous commercial once said, “We will leave the light on for you”—even if you are up in space.
Congratulations Class of 2022, and go Tritons!