Tag Archives: commencement

honorary degree ceremony puts it all in perspective


Earlier this week, nearly 70 years after an executive order called for the unjust relocation of coastal Japanese Americans, San Diego State held the first Nisei Honorary Degree Ceremony to honor those students whose higher education was interrupted by Executive Order 9006.

Bob H. Suzuki, a formerly-interned Japanese American and President Emeritus of Cal Poly Pomona, offered a poem that put the entire event in perspective and made me realize why this ceremony doesn’t just impact Japanese Americans, citizens caught up in the war, or families of relocated students; it impacts all of us.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Catholics
and I did not speak out because I was not a Catholic.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

-Pastor Martin Niemöller, 1946

We still live in a world where discrimination rules certain groups and sitting back until we’re the victim is no way to make a change in the world. The degree ceremony represents a step forward to offer retribution to this group of students and honor their accomplishments. Projects such as this provide hope that a voice can be found for persecuted groups who deserve honor and respect for what they have gone through.

Although their time at SDSU was interrupted, a majority of the students persevered, earned their college degrees, and went on to create thriving businesses, raise healthy families, and pursue their dreams. Today students fall back on excuses – such as not being able to get classes, paying higher fees, and sitting in old facilities – that hinder our educational goals. But imagine the passion and drive it took these students to overcome such an undeserved obstacle and break through barriers to move on and not let anything stop them.

Congratulations Nisei Honorary Degree recipients! It’s a long time deserved.

~ Desiree Roughton, Communications Student Assistant, Enrollment Services

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And then there were two…degrees that is!


When I got the paper last weekend, I pulled out Parade Magazine like I usually do. On the cover, President Obama had a message for the Class of 2010.  In it, he said something that really hit home: “You are graduating today in part because those who came before you had the courage to look past their differences, face down their common difficulties, and perfect their union.”

It was nine years ago that I first attended an SDSU commencement ceremony – my own when I received my bachelor’s degree in journalism. Since then, I’ve attended more than a dozen in my role as media relations manager alongside smiling grads, tearful parents and cheering friends.  Even though each ceremony seems pretty much the same to an outsider, every graduate has a different story.  The glimmer in their eyes represents something different to each of them.  They all sparkle as they cross the stage to accept that diploma they’ve worked so hard to obtain. Each have overcome obstacles, juggled multiple responsibilities and had a unique experience all their own that culminates with this incredible achievement.

This year will be a little different for me though. I’ll still be running around with local reporters introducing them to some of our amazing graduates. As the SDSU spokesperson, I might even do a couple of interviews during one of the local television live shots.  But instead of just being a bystander to the pomp and circumstance, I get to participate again when I receive my master’s degree in mass communication and media studies on Saturday.

So much has changed since I got my first degree in 2001.  For one, the degree will be given to Gina Jacobs – my married name.  Second, I get to receive it on stage with not just classmates but colleagues who have been there supporting me every step of the way; people who inspired me to get my master’s to begin with…people like Reggie Blaylock who will be getting his third degree from SDSU this weekend!

But this time around I will appreciate it so much more because of all the graduates who have come before me.  The student veterans, the hardworking single-mothers, students with disabilities, the list goes on.  Because of them, this is an achievement that I can be proud.

As the President said, it is because of those who came before me that I had the determination to work as hard as I did, so that I could try to be an example for the next generation of students.

Getting a degree isn’t easy and it’s not a given.  As of 2008, less than 28 percent of Americans had obtained a bachelor’s degree; only 10 percent had an advanced degree. So to be among the 10,000 graduates who will be calling themselves SDSU alumni this weekend, I count myself lucky.  I had the support and generosity of others to make it happen.  Thanks to my husband for making me dinner all those nights when I got home from class at 10 p.m. and for telling me “You can do it” when I wanted to throw in the towel and watch American Idol.  Thanks to my friends and family for being patient when I told them “sorry, can’t make it” to just about everything. And finally, thanks to all of those who came before me so that I could have the opportunity to pursue my education and become an Aztec twice over.

No matter what you choose to do, know that you have the ability—each one of you—to write the next chapter in America’s story. – President Barack Obama

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Long Time Gone


Carl Yoshimine

Carl Yoshimine

For all the WWII movies, novels, mini-series and documentaries, nothing brings the era more to life than meeting someone who lived it.

My grandfather and other family members served in combat – my great uncle died fighting in Europe – and their stories resonate in a way that’s difficult to convey.

In the same way, it’s a challenge to describe meeting Carl Yoshimine.

Yoshimine, 87, welcomed our MarComm video team into his quaint Anaheim home to interview him about the honorary degree he will receive from San Diego State University next week.

He sat in his living room rocking chair and recalled his freshman year at SDSU in 1941. The San Diego native easily made friends and assimilated into the campus community.

“But then the war broke out,” he told us. “And that ripped the rug out from my foundation.”

Yoshimine was forced to abruptly leave school when the United States began relocating Japanese Americans from along the Pacific coast to inland internment camps.

He calmly recalled the events that transpired – from Pearl Harbor to his internment and eventual release to pursue his education and the rest of his life in America.

He felt little ill will about the past. If anything, he credited the United States and its citizens for their capacity to admit prior wrongs and confront them.

Yoshimine and his wife Miko – who next week will celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary – invited us to join them for lunch. We couldn’t accept, but he would not let us leave without a bag of cookies and other treats.

Yoshimine, as charming a man as I’ve ever met, posed for photographs outside his home and thanked us profusely while walking us to our car.

Thank you, Carl.

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Rolling out the Commencement ‘Red Carpet’


Commencement is a serious time, a serious ceremony. But it can and should also be fun and creative. Since the beginning of this year we’ve really ramped up our use of social media and multi-media to tell the university’s many stories. So it was natural that when we started planning for Commencement, the discussion about how to use these new tools quickly rose to the top of the agenda. Fortunately we have a pretty creative team, an administration that is open to new ideas and an event manager who has become our champion.

So when we decided to take our SDSU Live program (which to date has been a weekly 15 minute on-line interview) to Commencement’s back door, there was little to no resistance. The result was our own version of the Academy Awards red carpet show. We went live 15-20 minutes prior to each of the seven Commencement ceremonies, interviewing deans, speakers and soon-to-be graduates as they prepared to cross the stage and accept their diplomas.

But we didn’t stop at live streaming this broadcast. We were able to link in to the video board inside Cox Arena to broadcast live as families and friends were finding their seats. What a surprise it must have been to see and hear your son or daughter thank you on the jumbo tron on their big day! We also tied in to the television broadcast of the ceremonies, so our “show” was also televised.

We promoted each and every broadcast on Twitter and Facebook. And even encouraged attendees and viewers to Tweet about Commencement using #sdsugrad. Some of them tweeted about our broadcast – feedback we used on the fly to make it better:

@Hezaire: Wish that the host of sdsu live was less enthusiastic. Also she’s yelling into the mic. Ugh. #sdsugrad
SDSU encouraged Tweeting during Commencement ceremonies this year

SDSU encouraged Tweeting during Commencement ceremonies this year

But overall Tweeting was a hit: @lauriewrites: My sister’s graduation has a hashtag! Go ahead San Diego State! #sdsugrad

@brandonpalma @SDSU_NewsTeam thank you!!! Btw, I think that twitter poster up front is genius!!

I’m not certain, but I have to believe we are the first, (or certainly one of the first) universities in the country to create our own red carpet style show before commencement ceremonies.

Feedback? Well, we’ll be doing this again next year. And we’ll be looking for new ways to be even more creative. Your thoughts and ideas are welcome!

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commencement season


About two weeks ago I had a dream that I was back in college and had to take a final exam. I remember feeling surprised (after all, I didn’t go to sleep that night thinking I’d be taking a test), but rather excited to take on the challenge.

For me, that was the official start of commencement season.

When I started this job six months ago I knew how big of a deal commencement was, but I didn’t realize how much work went into it. I accepted the challenge and tackled different aspects of commencement coverage, from interviewing outstanding graduates to writing stories for our commencement package on NewsCenter.

Obviously commencement has been on my mind a lot lately, but it didn’t really hit me until our walkthrough today. We walked into an empty Cox Arena and I was immediately taken aback by the sea of chairs on the floor. While empty today, those seats will be filled with thousands of graduates over the course of the weekend, each one celebrating a huge milestone in their lives.

At that moment I couldn’t help but think back to my own graduation. I’ll never forget the feeling of walking onto the floor of Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, surrounded by other graduates and our families in the bleachers. It was such an incredible experience – not just because Cookie Monster was our keynote speaker (I’m serious), but because I could actually feel the magnitude of that moment. Knowing that close to 10,000 SDSU students will get to experience that same feeling this weekend makes me so happy.

I’ve had an interesting post-college journey thus far, and I’m thrilled to be where I am right now. Although I’m expecting a lot of running around this weekend, I can’t wait to see all of our graduates enjoying and celebrating this amazing moment.

I also can’t wait to get the results back for that final exam I “took”…

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What commencement is all about


It’s that time of the year again. As I walked into campus today, everyone seemed just a little bit brighter, just a little bit more motivated. The students have a determined look in their eye that says “just one more final, I can do this.”  The faculty are giving their last lectures and grading those final papers. It might be hard work but they do this with a smile (maybe it’s the summer vacation they see coming over the horizon.)  The staff is bustling to and from Cox Arena, putting the final touches on what is going to be a day to remember for nearly 10,000 soon-to-be SDSU alumni. The new media team is checking the equipment we’re going to use to broadcast our SDSU Live coverage at each of the commencement ceremonies. (You can tune in via the web or on television!)

This is nothing compared to the work that commencement coordinator Jennifer Turner is doing down the hall.  Every ceremony, every script, every chair and program, every minute planned out to the last detail.  This doesn’t just come together on a whim because we do it every year.  No, we start meeting about next year’s commencement right away. We know how important this day is.  For most students, this will be the lasting memory of their college experience. For their families, it will be the joyous celebration of the hard work their loved one has done.

For the faculty and staff, the experience reminds us exactly why we love to work on a college campus. Every year, we get to see a new group of graduates achieve their dream of obtaining a degree.  The excitement in the air, the smiles and tears of an era ending and in moments of quiet, the nervous looks of wonder as to what will come next.

I remember the day I graduated from SDSU. My unusually large family packed into Cox Arena and then Tony Gwynn Stadium (though it wasn’t called that when I graduated in 2001.)  I am not sure which was more impressive to them: the fact that I graduated with honors or that I didn’t fall on my face crossing the stage.

So, to all of those who will receive that newly minted degrees, congratulations! (Pretty cool that your diploma is signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, isn’t it?)  You did it! You have achieved your goal. We know it will be the first of many achievements and San Diego State University is proud to have you as an alumnus.

P.S. I’ll be twittering from Commencement on Friday and Saturday, bringing you all the excitement you can fit into 140 characters! Follow me @Gina_SDSU #sdsugrad

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A Grad’s Perspective – Guest Blog


As a soon-to-be graduate of SDSU, undeniably, I have concerns for my upcoming induction into the ‘real world’. Whether I like it or not, this overwhelming life change is rapidly approaching! Needless to say, those of us graduating this May are facing a difficult job market and will have to take it head on.

I find myself in a circumstance that I am not at all accustomed to: Come commencement weekend, my life as a college student will end, leaving me with absolutely no concrete plans. It’s a strange feeling, as throughout my life, I have always had a definite direction that shaped my choices.

Stephanie Heliker (far left) and friends are graduating from SDSU next week

Stephanie Heliker (far left) and friends are graduating from SDSU next week

Presently, I can’t make even the simplest of decisions until I know where I stand as far as securing a job. Summer travel plans, living situations, and prospective part-time positions are on hold until I am certain that the economy has helped in defeating my efforts to find my preferred position. I feel as though I have discovered where the sidewalk ends.

The realization of no longer being a part of the student population and just another citizen in the world is a daunting and yet sobering one. I have made it this far, and I am satisfied that my college experience has adequately prepared me for what lies ahead. I have been lucky enough to intern with SDSU’s Marketing and Communication Department, an experience that will hopefully aid in this blind journey.

Whether grads will have to seek out positions unrelated to our field, or find part-time jobs until the economy perks up, we have been equipped with the tools to succeed and I think we will eventually find our chance, even if not as immediate as we hoped. Though it might be easy for prospective grads to be discouraged, remember to keep your head up because we have something to offer the world.

Good luck to all the 2009 grads!

~Stephanie Heliker

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