University to hold in-person processional; Oprah Winfrey to speak at Saturday’s online ceremony
At last, UCSB’s Class of 2021 will be able to celebrate its big milestone in person — somewhat.
The university announced it will not host its traditional ceremonies this year due to the public health orders. Instead, it will hold a “Grad Walk,” starting Monday and going through Thursday.
In this adjusted version of a graduation processional, students will have their names announced as they cross a stage and be photographed in front of the campus lagoon. There will be no speeches or remarks, and each Grad Walk will last approximately 10 minutes per graduate. Graduates are allowed two accompanying guests.
In addition, graduates from the Class of 2020 were invited to join the Grad Walk, since they were unable to have an in-person experience last year due to the pandemic.
The walks can be viewed via livestream, and the link will be posted on UCSB’s website on Monday. Reservations have already closed for the on-site event, but all supporters are welcome to watch the livestream.
The main event — the online commencement ceremony — will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, with Montecito talk show host and author Oprah Winfrey as the keynote graduation speaker. Jeffrey Stopple, dean of undergraduate education, will preside over the event, and Chancellor Henry Yang will offer greetings and confer degrees.
The 2021 commencement student speaker for the College of Letters & Science will be Ebelechukwu Eseka.
The sociology graduate is of Nigerian and Ghanian descent and emigrated to the United States when she was 14. She landed at UCSB as a Promise Scholar, which allowed her access to resources and mentors who helped her come into her own.
“I was a little — no, a lot — intimidated when I came into college,” Ms. Eseka said in a news release. “It felt similar to when I first came to the United States, and I started to retreat into myself. I felt all of the same feelings of insecurity I did in high school. I was lucky to be in the Promise Scholar program because it made my transition so much easier.”
In her remarks to the class, she’ll draw connections between her immigrant story to others’ stories of identity crises. The graduating senior will also advise her class to “roll with life’s punches.”
Ms. Eseka received the Deans’ Award for Outstanding Senior and the Thomas More Storke Award, UCSB’s highest student honor. Mr. Storke (1876-1971) was publisher of the News-Press, and the campus’ Storke Tower is named after him.
After graduation, Ms. Eseka plans to pursue a career to be a public interest attorney.
“I’m proud of myself,” she said. “I’m excited. This is a big moment, and I hope people like my speech.”
Events on Saturday will include multiple virtual celebrations arranged by the university’s schools, academic divisions and departments as well. For more information, visit ucsb.edu/commencement.