UCLA Ed & IS Commencement: Graduates Aim to Uphold Equity and Access

UCLA TEP graduates the first-ever Ethnic Studies teacher cohort in the nation.

When Wasserman Dean Suárez-Orozco welcomed the Class of 2017 and its families and friends to this year’s Commencement exercises, held at UCLA’s Wilson Plaza on June 17, he underscored the awesome responsibility that new teachers, information professionals, and researchers face today.

“With inequality reaching historic levels and the concurrent intensification of gaps and resources and opportunities along class, race, ethnic, background, gender… we have a clear and present danger to the basic fabric of our nation,” he said. “In the age of alternative facts, fake news and fake politicians, education and information… are more important than ever before in the history of our country.”

Morgan Colby Hayes-Vinson, who earned her Master’s of Education degree in Student Affairs (at far left), performed the National Anthem and the UCLA Alma Mater. Pictured, L-R: Yi Ding, UCLA IS graduate, Professor Jonathan Furner, UCLA IS chair; Professor Christina Christie, UCLA Education chair; and Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Wasserman Dean.

UCLA Ed & IS has gained a step up in beginning to address issues of access and equity – its Teacher Education Program has produced the first-ever Ethnic Studies cohort of teachers in the nation. The cohort includes Daniel Garcia, Andrew “Drew” Gutierrez III, Monica Ashley Bristol Macaldo, Taryn Marshall, Liliana Mendoza, Angelina Murphy, Cathy Yanette Realegeno, Annette Joanna Serfozo, Steve D. Valenzuela, and Keara Williams. The cohort gave the traditional graduation speech from the UCLA Education Department with a collective spoken word presentation.

“We represent more than just a graduating class – we are revolutionaries,” they said. “Our activism stems from a drive to reimagine the present and future. We all come from diverse backgrounds but we have the collective vision to transform… Some of us come from a long line of educators. Some of us have entered this field after years of other forms of activism. And some of us were the first in our families to graduate from college. In the end, we have come together to share this journey, our successes, failures, joys, and pains of teaching.

The first Ethnic Studies cohort of teachers in the nation performed a collaborative work of spoken word to celebrate their new degrees, their respective heritages, and their teaching profession.

“More important than this degree is the people we learned with and learned from. We created our unique experience and grew in untilled soil, cultivating community and resilience. In a system that stifles the brilliance of young people, we were called to lift up the next generations as we climb; ways paved by those before us, the ancestral spirit rooting us in common ground.”

Yi Ding, who earned her Master’s of Library and Information Science, delivered the graduation speech for the UCLA Department of Information Studies. She channeled a hero from the popular “Transformers” franchise, describing the social consciousness of the library and archival fields.

“To some extent, we information professionals are the ‘Optimus Prime’ of our society, and fight for the freedom to think and read as librarians; or we preserve cultural heritage as archivists; or advocate for transparency, accessibility, and privacy as data scientists.”

Ding expressed her appreciation for her IS faculty, her family, and her classmates.

“I especially want to thank all of you, my fellow students, for your care and support to me, each other and our patrons. You all have created a welcoming environment where your patrons can embrace information in this… sometimes overwhelming world. Your diverse backgrounds and talents… make me always eager to learn more about the field, myself, the world, and to make a difference as an information professional.”

New MLIS graduate Yi Ding shared her experiences at UCLA, her vision of the information fields as a service to all of society.

Suárez-Orozco congratulated the new graduates, saying that, “Your graduate degrees are a mark of great distinction. Each degree is your unique achievement and also, your collective achievement.

“An ancient African proverb echoes the wisdom of the ages: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. You have gone far indeed, and you have gone together. We hope, we expect that you have gained your own principles of rigor and respect that animate our diverse GSE&IS. Graduates of the Class of 2017: the world needs healing. Go out there and heal our world.”

From Fall 2016 to Summer 2017, the UCLA Department of Information Studies awarded 58 MLIS degrees and seven Doctorates of Philosophy. UCLA Education awarded a total of 170 master’s degrees in TEP, Student Affairs, the Principal Leadership Institute, and Education.

Twenty-one doctorates were awarded by the Educational Leadership Program as well as 40 doctorates in Education. The Education Minor Program, which is offered to UCLA undergraduates, recognized 198 students who have completed the program.


Above: The first-ever Ethnic Studies cohort of teachers in the United States celebrated Commencement on June 17 with a collaborative spoken word tribute to fellow graduates, their families, and their profession.