Class of 2023 Shows Resilience and Determination to Reach Graduation

The Samueli School of Engineering expects to award approximately 117 doctorates, 232 master’s degrees and 986 bachelor’s degrees this academic year.

June 28, 2023 - It was a boisterous crowd of engineering students who filed into the Bren Events Center on June 16, for the 2023 Commencement Ceremony. Family and friends packed the arena to see their loved ones achieve the milestone of earning an engineering degree.

“What an absolute thrill it is to be here with you today, as we celebrate the Class of 2023,” said UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman. “This amazing graduating class will forever be remembered as one of the most resilient, most responsive and most determined classes we have ever had the privilege of knowing. Many joined us before COVID transformed our world. They had to adapt and persist through challenges that no previous class had to face, and they fought back to get to this day. Incredible!”

The Samueli School of Engineering expects to award approximately 117 doctorates, 266 master’s degrees and 986 bachelor’s degrees.

This year’s student commencement speaker was Wezam Paully-Umeh, a mechanical engineering major who will become an associate aeronautical engineer at Northrop Grumman. “When I look around this room, I see a room full of success stories,” said Paully-Umeh. “The success that comes from hard work, dedication, community, consistency and countless all-nighters. It was no easy feat and yet, we did it y’all, congratulations!”

The Samueli School of Engineering 2023 Commencement platform party featured various engineering faculty surrounding presenters pictured, front row from left: Tasha Higgins ‘93, Wezam Paully-Umeh, Magnus Egerstedt, Howard Gillman, Hal Stern, Cynthia Guidry ‘92 and Nancy Da Silva.

Dean Magnus Egerstedt introduced the featured speaker, Cynthia Guidry ’92, “She is one of our own, an Anteater engineer,” Egerstedt said.

Guidry earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at UCI and an MBA from Pepperdine University. After many years working Los Angeles World Airports as deputy executive director of Planning and Development at LAX, she is now director of Long Beach Airport, one of the busiest general aviation airports in the country.

“What an awesome opportunity to graduate from one of the top universities in the nation,” said Guidry. “Take in this moment. Breathe in the greatness of today and smile at your achievement in completing this much-earned degree. When I was where you are today, I was feeling a range of emotions, excitement, a little fear. All normal emotions.

“Engineers, I encourage you to get outside your comfort zone, serve your community, find the best way you can stay connected and add value to the world. One of the things I learned at UCI was CPR, not cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but courage, perseverance and relationships. Critical skills that have prepared me for the leadership roles I have been blessed to be in.

“Little did I know, 30 years ago, the full impact of a UCI civil engineering degree -- the launching pad for an incredible future and endless possibilities. Graduating Class of 2023, the door to your bright future is wide open, step through and experience your next journey.”

In closing the ceremony, Egerstedt encouraged everyone to remember and applaud the very special guests in attendance, all those who supported and, in many cases, made great sacrifices so that students could graduate. He then congratulated students on behalf of the whole Samueli School of Engineering. “I want to tell you how incredibly proud we are of you. Even though we rightly brag about all the world class research that happens in our labs, that pales in comparison to what we are celebrating here today. Because the number one thing we produce is people; people who go through our programs and go out into the world as researchers, educators, policymakers, entrepreneurs and industry leaders. As you start this next chapter in your lives, I want to remind you of a quote from the Spiderman movies. ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ And you now have a superpower. You are Anteater engineers.”

The graduates burst out of the arena to welcoming family and friends who greeted them with flowers, posters, smiles and in some cases, tears. Chiara Marie Duran, who earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and has secured a job as a manufacturing engineer at Glen Air, summed up the experience well: “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it was all worth it.”

Watch the engineering school’s ceremony, view the 2023 commencement program, see photos and enjoy the school’s roaring Zot, Zot, Zot!

– Lori Brandt