Class of 2021 Graduates with Resounding Resilience

June 15, 2021 – UC Irvine held remote commencement ceremonies Saturday, June 12, with nearly 7,500 students and their families participating.

The universitywide virtual ceremony and conferral began at 9 a.m. followed by the Samueli School reception at 9:30 a.m. for bachelor’s and master’s degree students. A virtual graduate hooding ceremony was also held at 9:30 a.m. for those receiving doctorates.

“The Class of 2021 will have a unique place in our institutional memory as the most resilient and responsive class we have ever had the privilege of teaching,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Under the most extraordinary circumstances, you rose to the occasion, supported each other, adapted and persisted. I could not be more proud of each and every one of you. 

“It is my sincere hope that you’ll think of UCI as having cultivated and enriched your mind and spirit as having prepared you for your ongoing development as a free and educated human being and as having empowered you to push the world a little more toward the light. For as you know the great motto of the University of California is ‘Fiat Lux,’ ‘Let there be light.’ You are the light and the hope of the world, and we’re hopeful for the future because we know that we can count on you… You have enriched us immeasurably.”

The engineering school is expected to award approximately 86 doctorates, 248 master’s degrees and 1,038 bachelor’s degrees to students this academic year.

This is the second year UCI has held remote commencement ceremonies. As a sign of improving times, this year, the university offered separate in-person Graduate Stage Moments for students June 13-17. At least 6,801 students registered to celebrate the tradition of crossing the stage, but with a pandemic twist. New graduates safely masked and social distanced walked across a commencement stage wearing their regalia while their names were announced as two guests accompanied them for the special moment. Graduate students also took part in the stage moments, allowing them to walk across the stage and for faculty to hood them for photos.

“Walking across the stage is so important to our graduates,” said Willie L. Banks Jr., vice chancellor for student affairs. “The students have worked so hard this year, and we are thrilled that public health conditions have allowed for this in-person component.”

Leading up to the commencement ceremonies, Engineering Student Council's 2021 Vice President of Internal Affairs Anjali Bhagat and Samueli School Interim Dean Michael Green led students in the Order of the Engineer oath at an induction ceremony June 4 in which Anteaters promised to uphold the profession’s standards and dignity and accepted a steel ring to wear on their pinky finger. James Powell, the Order of the Engineer Governor of Southern California Links, was the representative who officiated the ceremony and ESC’s President Brand Liu also attended. This year featured a record number of inductees: 101 undergraduate seniors and graduating master’s students from UCI, UC Riverside and other neighboring universities.

At the virtual Engineering Reception, Green warmly addressed the graduating class: “Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2021 against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. The completion of your engineering degree is a testament to your resilience, as well as your agility, hard work and fortitude. I have no doubt that your experience at UCI will provide you with the knowledge, skills and leadership that you will need to impact and benefit society in countless ways.

“Unfortunately, we cannot celebrate your achievements in person this year. But I want you to know that we are very proud of you and have every confidence in your continued success. As you move forward in your career, I encourage you to do the following: maintain our values and dedication to excellence and lifelong learning, commit to truth and fairness, and remember to embrace diversity and individual differences.”

Green welcomed new graduates into the UCI alumni community: “Our alumni are bold, brilliant and resolute. I implore you all today to embrace and act on these characteristics throughout your career, and to follow confidently in the footsteps of UCI alumni while simultaneously forging your own path. With a UCI Samueli School degree, you are equipped to impact the world in ways we never could have imagined. We have every confidence in your ability to give back to society by engineering a better future.”

One such bold and brilliant alumnus who has created a significant impact was guest speaker Jai Hakhu Ph.D. ‘79, chairman and CEO of HORIBA Instruments Incorporated. He implored new graduates to embrace uncertainty and continue a lifetime of learning. Hakhu also shared his father’s advice: “Life is full of ups and downs, and so please do not make decisions at low or high points in your life. Look into the future and live your dreams.” He ended by advising graduates to “Be open to learning from anyone and everyone. It’s teamwork that makes the difference.”

Student speaker Sishir Jayanthi, mechanical engineering major specializing in aerospace engineering, also spoke of the unprecedented times he felt were “out of a movie.” But Jayanthi encouraged his classmates to think of how they might shape reality – and history – to create a better future. 

“[T]his year, we got a glimpse of exactly why the world needs its engineers,” he said. “Ventilators, masks, face shields, vaccines – this last year, the world has looked to its engineers for solutions. You see, we’re about to enter some of the most challenging times in our history. Our future will be creating solutions to climate change, artificial intelligence, infrastructure and the list goes on.”

After graduation, Jayanthi will join Millennium Space Systems, a company that creates satellite solutions for the Air Force and other customers, as a spacecraft mechanical engineer. His dreams of building rockets that take people to space aligns with his focus on the future. “What we do now and what we will do in the future will create a better world for generations to follow,” he said. “Today, that world needs us. And that same world will demand all of our talent, all of our dedication, and all of our commitment to ensure we do our part for those who come next.”

Green acknowledged and expressed gratitude to the new graduates’ families. “Thank you for trusting us and supporting your graduate through their UCI journey.” After a full list of graduates’ names, photos and messages were displayed, Green led the community in a final “Zot, Zot, Zot!”

Watch the school’s virtual reception, the universitywide celebration, the graduate hooding reception, and view the 2021 commencement program.


– Tonya Becerra