‘A MOMENT OF TRIUMPH’
Graduation for UCSB’s College of Creative Studies was a small ceremony for 82 graduates and their families, friends and supporters. And yet the energy of this small but resolute group was everywhere as Music Composition graduate Nick Mazuk’s “Farewell Fanfare” started the sad but triumphant farewell for these graduates.
The ceremony was presided over by UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, who has been in his current position since 1994. The graduates were dressed differently. Some were clad in black robes with their blue and gold sashes thrown over their shoulders, while others wore suits, dresses, or button-up shirts and slacks. One graduate, Juan Manuel Silverio, flashed sparkly pants when he walked across the stage.
Mr. Yang started his remarks by praising UCSB and its achievements, such as being ranked nine for Nobel Prize Laureates and ranked second by the New York Times for its commitment to economic diversity.
CCS Dean Bruce H. Tiffney, who sported a wizard hat on top of his black robes, introduced members of the faculty and other distinguished guests such as commencement speaker Dr. Kenny Broad, an environmental anthropologist and a University of Miami professor, who graduated from UCSB in 1989 with a B.A. in Literature.
Mr. Tiffney praised the CCS graduating class for choosing the “hard path” instead of the “conventional one.”
“Today we celebrate a moment of triumph for all of you upon this stage. Hard fought, hard won and times bright and dark mixed in. Indeed, you chose the hard path, not the conventional one,” he said to the graduates. “And that alone is reason to salute you.”
He also extolled the virtues of failure, saying that it was one of the “greatest gifts.”
“To discover, as Winston Churchill said in his desperate times, his darkest hour, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts,” Dr. Tiffney said. He continued in his praise for CCS graduates, as they went out into the world to do various things, such as writing novels, designing video games, fighting for lower prices for pharmaceutical drugs and others.
He compared CCS to the “Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters,” which is the home base and school for Marvel Comics’ X-Men team. Mr. Tiffney also brought up climate change, which he argued was the pressing issue of the generation.
After Mr. Tiffney’s remarks, Mr. Broad’s speech combined humor and advice.
“Unlike the commencement speaker at Morehouse… I will not be paying your student debt,” Mr. Broad said, though he invited graduates to “crash” with his family in South Florida.
Mr. Broad also made fun of commencement speeches as “torturous” and instead spent his time giving out “practical advice.”
“Surround yourself with people smarter than you…don’t text and drive and as one of my friends, who speaks from my experience, regularly reminds my children, only one crime at a time,” Mr. Broad said to laughter and applause. Mr. Broad’s speech also included remembering past times at UCSB, and making fun of himself in the process.
Mr. Broad’s speech also touched upon graduation ceremonies themselves and how they seemed like a step forward.
“Ceremonies imply a right of passage, as if we’re on a linear calculated path leaving behind our infantile omnipotence in the gutters of Del Playa,” he said. “These choreographed instances provide not only justification but a fresh start, giving us the illusion of control akin to New Year’s resolutions.”
He also said that he had a “nostalgic wave” coming back to Santa Barbara.
Graduate Casondra Cunningham and Anoop Praturu, a Physics graduate, were the two student speakers. Ms. Cunningham spent five years with five majors before graduating with a double major in Art (Book Arts) and Biology.
“I learned how to be child-like, but not childish. Countless Latin names and how to kayak in the ocean, on the river and into the sea caves. In short, I learned how to not focus, to pursue my passions and to see where that led me,” Ms. Cunningham said of her time at UCSB.
“Never stop learning. Focus and don’t focus. Do things that are hard and do things that scare you,” Ms. Cunningham said to her fellow graduates about the lessons she learned from her time at UCSB. She also celebrated her time at CCS and called the college her “family.”
“Be an active participant in your life. It is the most important thing you’ll ever be responsible for,” she said at the end of her speech, which was met with a resounding round of applause.
Mr. Praturu’s speech centered on his memories of CCS, such as his physical key to the CCS building. He described his key as a “comfort object” that had accompanied him throughout his time at UCSB to events such as exams.
“I’ve come to realize that my degree is somewhat like this key. It’s supposed to open doors or something like that, but it kind of feels like someone changed the locks,” Mr. Praturu said to chuckles.
He also spoke of his time at CCS and what he learned, such as how to comfort a friend. As with the rest of his fellow speakers, he praised his graduates, who have done extraordinary things such as making books in the woods, climbing mountains and seeing 335 bird species in Santa Barbara.
“The names of our majors do not do justice to the magnitude of the things we have learned here,” he said. “I came here prepared to learn about physics. I came here expecting to learn about physics. But honestly my degree was about the random stuff that I couldn’t have prepared for or predicted.”
“It wasn’t about what I learned in the classroom … it’s just like this key, it’s not about the doors it can’t open. It’s about the things I learned while I was trying to open every door I could see,” he finished.
CCS also has a longstanding tradition of presenting CCS students’ musical compositions. The ceremony already heard one of these
pieces, Mr. Mazuk’s ‘Farewell Fanfare” and listened to three more. The first was Jordan B. Mitchell’s solo guitar composition, titled “Brown Eyes”, a haunting and yet elegant piece.
Then Bryan J. Morones beautiful violin composition, “String Duet: No. 1, Open Color,” was performed by Sara Bashore and Kristina Tsanova. The last composition was by Will Brewer, a piece that combined elements of piano, electronic music and drums.
Mr. Tiffney also presented the achievements of the 2019 class including 18 solo art exhibitions, 31 papers in peer-reviewed
journals, organizing 26 concerts and playing in 269 concerts, among others.
The chancellor then conferred the degrees to the graduates before the ceremony ended with the crowd roaring and cheering.
The post-graduate plans of students differed. Some were staying in Santa Barbara in order to pursue graduate school or, such as Mr. Praturu, work in the local tech company, Invoca. Others were heading to Harvard University, UC San Diego and other universities for Ph.D and masters programs in a multitude of disciplines such as mathematics and engineering. And still others will be working for companies like Microsoft or traveling abroad for opportunities in countries such as Great Britain and Germany.