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Families, community celebrate record number of graduates at Sacramento State Commencement

Where one journey ends, another begins.

It was a sentiment shared by thousands of new Hornet alumni during Sacramento State’s 2024 Commencement, May 17-19 at Golden 1 Center. Hashem Jaber, Associated Students Inc. director for the College of Engineering and Computer Science put it into words as a student speaker during the final ceremony.

“Today marks the culmination of our journey,” Jaber said. “From today onwards, each and every single one of us will embark on our own journey to build and engineer a hive of our own. There will be times where you’ll face success, and there will be times where you’ll face failures, (but) when you face the latter, remember your journey at Sac State, and remember your support systems.”

More than 9,700 graduates received degrees across a total of seven ceremonies during the three days.

President Luke Wood, leading his first Sacramento State Commencement since taking over in July 2023, shook graduates’ hands, posed for selfies, danced with them, bumped fists and acknowledged their accomplishments as they completed their walks across the stage.

“Sac State is renowned for providing a pathway to the ones who’ve been doubted, the ones who’ve been held back, the ones who’ve been held down, who others said they aren’t, they can’t and they won’t,” Wood said. “And then Sacramento State provides you with an environment to show the world that nothing – nothing – can stop you.”

Wood acknowledged first-generation and transfer students, top graduates, and parents and caretakers who juggled school with raising families. He called on members of each group to stand and receive cheering acknowledgement from their friends, families and community members in attendance.

Wood also acknowledged graduates who had their high school and community college ceremonies canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we should give them a double round of applause because this is their first time crossing the stage,” Wood said.

President Wood takes a selfie with a graduate from the Commencement stage.

President Luke Wood takes a selfie with a graduate from the stage during Commencement. In addition to the traditional handshake, students and Wood also shared high-fives, fist bumps, dances and other celebrations acknowledging their accomplishments. Wood, presiding over his first Commencement ceremonies as Sac State president, told graduates that "nothing – nothing – can stop you." (Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)

Jessica Yang, a General Management graduate, spoke during the College of Business ceremony. She referenced the resiliency of the Class of 2024 by starting her speech with the sound of a chime from her phone.

“Good morning. Is my camera on? Can you guys hear me? Ah, the nostalgic memory of a virtual classroom,” Yang said. “It seems like just yesterday we were scrambling to figure out how to unmute ourselves and adjust the angles of our cameras to hide the fact that we were still in our jammies. But here we are today, the ultimate masters of the mute button and virtual backgrounds. May your WiFi connections always be strong.”

Seven top graduates – one from each academic college – were honored with Deans’ Awards. One honoree, Sofía del Pilar Roca Castro, also received the President’s Medal as the University’s top graduate.

Sacramento State awarded three President’s Medals for Distinguished Service and two honorary degrees to individuals who have provided outstanding service to the University, higher education and/or the common good.

A posthumous degree was awarded to the family of Gregorio Florez Breedlove, a Sac State Nutrition student who died after collapsing at a Sacramento Kings game in December.

Ceremonies kicked off with the annual Grad Jam festivities, featuring music, shoutouts from graduates to their families and friends, prize giveaways and a T-shirt cannon operated by University Library Dean Amy Kautzman.

A group of Sac State graduates moving the tassels on their mortar boards.
The University's newest alumni move the tassels from the right side of their mortar boards to the left, the final portion of Commencement and the one that officially designates them as college graduates. For many students, it was their first time participating in a traditional commencement ceremony after the COVID-19 pandemic forced high schools and community colleges to cancel graduations four years ago. (Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)

Elaborately decorated mortar boards and special stoles celebrated culture and family, with phrases such as “Adding up Dreams, Subtracting Doubts,” “Black Girl Magic,” “This One is for You Mom,” “Nine Years Later …,” “One Degree Hotter,” “From Backpack to Briefcase 2024,” “I’m Ready to Build My Future,” and “It’s Just Rocket Science.”

Throughout the weekend, Wood celebrated with students outside the arena and on stage. On Sunday, Wood, an accomplished amateur boxer and mixed martial arts enthusiast, good-naturedly sparred with students, a nod to the recent launch of Sac State’s new Combat U program.

Yaseen Nasiri, who graduated with an MBA in Finance, came to the U.S. in 2016 from Afghanistan to pursue his education and called graduation a true moment of joy.

“I’m lucky to have my family here to support me,” Nasiri said. “It was a big challenge, but finally I made it. For all those newcomers, this is the land of opportunity. All you have to do is make your plan. You have options. Select them and work on it.”

Women and Gender Studies graduate Tatiana Soliz was accompanied by her service dog Fimlee, who helps her with balance and movement, as she accepted her diploma.

“This day is huge for me,” said Soliz, who battled a chronic illness throughout her academic journey. “I am so grateful to Sac State for allowing Fimlee to be with me today.”

Biological Science graduate Alina Sergeyeva said she was proud of her own accomplishments and was happy to enjoy it with her colleagues.

“I’m really proud of everyone here,” Sergeyeva said. “We’ve all had a tough few years, and we’ve all put our blood, sweat and tears into this.”

Nedric Miller said he was “still processing” his feelings after receiving his diploma in Kinesiology. He was incarcerated for much of his adult life for crimes he committed while a gang member in Los Angeles, he said. Sac State’s Project Rebound helped him turn his life around.

“I used everyone around me as an inspiration,” Miller said. “I thought about quitting a lot, but I knew I had to finish. I wanted to do it to prove my resilience. I had to do it for myself.”

Senior writers Cynthia Hubert and Jennifer K. Morita contributed to this report.

To see more Commencement 2024 photos, view our gallery here.

A wide view of thousands of graduates and guests gathered inside Golden 1 Center for Commencement.
Thousands of graduates, family, friends and other loved ones packed into Golden 1 Center for seven Commencement ceremonies held over three days, the culmination of the University's academic year and the years-long journeys of the graduates. (Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)


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About Daniel Wilson

Daniel Wilson joined the Sac State communications team in 2022 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at the Sacramento Bee as an audience engagement producer and reporter. He graduated from Sac State with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism in 2018. He plays video games, watches pro wrestling, and loves spending time with his wife and cat.

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