Get them to the Greek
Smiling faces, shout-outs, blasts of air horns and graduation caps launched in the air reflected the joy and relief felt by thousands of Berkeley Engineering students and their families as they celebrated commencement at the Hearst Greek Theatre. This season marked the first time in three years since Berkeley Engineering was able to hold regular commencement ceremonies in person.
The class of 2022 bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients celebrated their commencements on May 17, and the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 Ph.D. degree recipients were hooded on May 18. In addition, Berkeley Engineering held a ceremony on May 7 for bachelor’s and master’s graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021, with many students excited to finally walk across the stage.
Engineering dean Tsu-Jae King Liu commended graduates for navigating an unprecedented time in history. She noted how the past few years have taught us the importance of community and encouraged the new engineering graduates to approach the future with compassion and an open mind, and to embrace different perspectives in their work.
“Berkeley engineers are already known for their grit and ability to solve problems and innovate,” said Liu. “Let us remind the world that our reputation includes advocacy for a fair and inclusive society.”
Keynote speakers at this year’s commencements included Tara Bunch (B.S.’85 ME), head of Global Operations at Airbnb; Dipanjan “DJ” Deb (B.S.’91 EECS), co-founder and CEO of Francisco Partners; and Ann Lee-Karlon (B.S.’89 BioE, Ph.D. UCSD), chief operating officer of Altos Labs. In addition to encouraging graduates to take risks and to look for challenges, the keynote speakers advised this next generation of engineers to embrace debate and diverse views as they work to tackle the world’s most complex problems.
Student speakers at this year’s commencements — Matthew Nelson (B.S.’22 ME & B.S. Dance and Performance), Louis Bemberg (MEng’22 IEOR) and Sally Winkler (Ph.D.’20 BioE) — echoed the sentiments of Dean Liu, as they acknowledged the many challenges facing the world and reflected on the commitment to service that makes Berkeley engineers a force for positive change.
Winkler reflected on the ways her peers supported one another and used their engineering skills to help the community — from improving the department’s equity and inclusion practices to researching new ways to lengthen the usable life of N-95 masks.
“Berkeley engineers have a heart of service, and I am humbled by the ways my peers have stepped up to serve others during graduate school, above and beyond their research responsibilities,” said Winkler. “I know we will bring this spirit of service with us, beyond this university, to wherever we go.”
This year the college held separate ceremonies for master’s and Ph.D. students. The record-breaking number of master’s students registered to graduate — more than 900 — reflected the growth in the college’s professional master’s programs. This year was the first cohort of graduates of the Master of Design (MDes) and the concurrent Master of Business Administration/Master of Engineering (MBA/MEng) programs.
During this commencement season, UC Berkeley faculty members had the honor of watching family members walk across the stage. Kristin Persson, professor of materials science and engineering and faculty marshal at the spring 2022 ceremonies, celebrated with daughter Ellen Persson (B.S.’22 Engineering Math and Statistics) on May 17. Ruzena Bajcsy, professor emerita of electrical engineering and computer sciences, saw her granddaughter, Andrea Bajcsy (Ph.D.’22 EECS), get hooded on May 18. And Nicholas Sitar, Edward G. Cahill and John R. Cahill Professor of Civil Engineering, was able to see his son, Ryan Sitar (M.S.’20 CEE), experience a long-awaited in-person commencement on May 7.
As Shawn Patel (B.S.’22 EECS) reflected on his commencement, he expressed his gratitude for the connections he made with peers and faculty while at Berkeley Engineering. “It was just a culmination of all the hard work and determination that went into getting into Berkeley Engineering and, of course, graduating,” said Patel. “So, I think it’s just sort of remembering all the experiences, friends and classes that I’ve taken.”