UCSB holds online ceremony to honor Class of 2020
It’s ironic that notable UC Santa Barbara alumnus Jack Johnson picked his song “Better Together” to sing to UCSB students on what would have been their commencement day — but also strangely fitting.
On a day where hundreds of UCSB seniors would usually be gathered by the commencement green to celebrate the incredible accomplishment of graduating from one of the best public schools in the country, COVID-19 had other plans.
The novel coronavirus has forced hundreds of important events to be canceled throughout the country, and that includes the commencement ceremonies for all UCSB students.
UCSB was still able to give its students recognition online, however, with videos which included a message from Chancellor Henry T. Yang, celebrated singer Mr. Johnson and student speaker Courtney Chan.
At first thought, Mr. Johnson’s song choice might seem a bit odd.
A love song about how being together feels so great during a time where students could not even gather to celebrate their graduation feels strange. Yet, it also fit incredibly well.
While there was no grand celebration this year, students celebrated with their loved ones or even their friends from the comfort of their own home.
While the coronavirus has robbed students of their commencement, it didn’t take away their opportunity to be “better together.”
It also served as a reminder that even in the darkest times, treating people with compassion can always bring a smile to someone’s face.
Mr. Johnson said as much when he told students, “I know you are well aware of the challenges your generation is up against and so the only real advice I could give is to make sure you enter this next phase of your life with as much empathy and kindness as you can.”
Chancellor Yang also had a similar message in his graduations to the Class of 2020.
“Although we are separated by distance, we are united in excitement and joy,” Chancellor Yang said.
He also made it clear that this virtual ceremony is only “the beginning” and a “precursor” to the in-person ceremony that will happen for the Class of 2020 on a future date.
“Class of 2020, we will give you the hallmark ceremony you deserve and I look forward to shaking your hand on our commencement stage on a future date,” Chancellor Yang said.
The Chancellor also shared that 40% of this year’s graduates include first-generation college students.
Student speaker Ms. Chan shared some of the wisdom she gained on her non-traditional path to her degree in a three minute video.
Unlike most members of the Class of 2020, Ms. Chan did not attend any university right away. In fact, she shared in her video that she did not even walk across the stage during her high school graduation 11 years ago and worked at a spa for several years after.
Knowing that the environment didn’t suit her, Ms. Chan eventually opted to return to school to craft her own future.
“I was terrified to return to school as an older student, but if I found community college to be intimidating, it was twice as intimidating to be accepted to a top university,” Ms. Chan said.
Ms. Chan then went on to talk about the important figures she met during her journey that helped her feel accepted in Isla Vista.
“The community in Isla Vista has made me feel at home when I felt like a fish out of water… UCSB has provided the encouragement and reinforcement that I have always needed while giving me the space to go through my journey judgement free,” Ms. Chan said.
“Eleven years ago, I could not have imagined myself crossing the finish line, more so no one could have imagined that our time at UCSB would be ending in the shadow of a global pandemic. I believe that we all wish we could have a standard graduation experience, but I am bolstered by the spirit of the Gaucho.”
The video can be found at https://www.ucsb.edu/2020-virtual-celebration. Additional videos from the deans of each college can also be found on the virtual commencement page of UCSB’s website.