Graduates Shine Bright with Celebrations Hosted by the USU

June 1, 2023

The University Student Union celebrated graduates and their achievements at multiple graduation ceremonies.

Graduation Celebration Dinner

By: Reema Haque 

Military-connected graduates pose for a photo at the Veterans Resource Center Graduation Celebration Dinner
Military-connected graduates pose for a photo at the Veterans Resource Center Graduation Celebration Dinner. Photo by Briana Walden.

The Veterans Resource Center (VRC) honored California State University, Northridge (CSUN) graduates from the military-connected community with a “Graduation Celebration Dinner” that was shared with family and friends.

“It was a great feeling to see how many pro and student staff from other departments supported our event by helping and attending to ensure the CSUN Vet community felt the love,” said Mayra Plascencia, manager of the VRC.

Among the 125 guests, the military-connected graduates received congratulations from staff and administrators. Special recognition was given to Shannon Arias who received the Outstanding Graduating Veteran Award and Eddie Garrett, recipient of the Outstanding Service Award. As graduates were called to the stage, many expressed thanks to families, partners, children, fellow students and the VRC.

As the event ended, graduates received one rose each to place onto the Matador Statue, a CSUN tradition that signifies personal achievement. 

CSUN Alum and Army Veteran Trace Cooper-Harris was the evening’s keynote speaker. She shared about her efforts to tailor laws that address the difficulties facing the veteran community.

“It was really nice to be able to highlight a CSUN alumna. She was able to share some of the ways she used her CSUN education and Military discipline to change laws and make this world a little bit more equitable for the people who served and their partners,” Plascencia said.



By: Riley Sullivan

Student graduates at the DREAM Center UndocuGraduation
Graduates celebrate their achievement at the UndocuGraduation event. Photo by Jon Belmont.

The month of May is often associated with celebrating maternal figures, but for those graduating seniors who found sanctuary at the DREAM Center, it was a time to celebrate themselves as well. 

The DREAM Center of the University Student Union hosted the “UndocuGraduation” event where 68 graduates were celebrated for their achievement in graduating from California State University, Northridge. 

“As somebody who hosted the event, I think it was very successful. Being able to see the audience be really engaged throughout the program and also being able to see the folks that were supporting our graduates there bring so much joy to them,” said Daniela Barcenas, manager of the DREAM Center. 

For the first time, the event utilized round tables to help create a sense of community, something that proved to be successful with 300 guests who shared a meal and a celebratory toast towards the end of the evening. Barcenas said that the decorations and design of the space were intentional and thought-out components to make the ceremony feel more intimate.

Dr. Felecia Russell was the evening’s keynote speaker. She shared her research about the invisibility of undocumented Black individuals. 

“We wanted [Russell] to come and showcase the diversity of the undocu community and also the success that she has accomplished over the years,” Barcenas said. 

Students then were called to the stage to receive recognition. Some took the moment to reflect on their efforts to reach the graduation milestone and to give thanks to those who supported their journeys. 

“We thought it was very intimate and special to be able to provide that space for our graduates as well as their guests and their families that were there,” Barcenas said. 


Rainbow Graduation

By: Tomas Gonzalez

Dr. Sheena Malhotra addresses the group at Rainbow Graduation 2023
Dr. Sheena Malhotra, director of the Queer Studies program addresses the crowd gathered at Rainbow Graduation. Photo by Jon Belmont.

Coinciding with the 10-year celebration of its founding, the Pride Center of the University Student Union hosted its annual Rainbow Graduation, honoring LGBTQ+ students and Queer Studies majors for their academic accomplishments. With more than 250 students, staff, family and friends in attendance, the ceremony was back in full force. 

The celebration was punctuated by an inspiring performance of Frank Tichelli’s Earth Song, conducted by CSUN graduate Nur Fahlevi-Pratama. With a chorus composed of CSUN students and PRIDE Center employees, “Everybody loved the performance, with the message of hope ringing true to the attendees,” said Pride Center Manager Whitney Workman.

CSUN graduate Madin Ray Lopez, founder and executive director of Project Q, provided the keynote address. A frequent collaborator with the Pride Center, their message encouraged graduates to recognize that tenacity can provide a pathway forward regardless of their circumstances.

Scholarships then were presented to students, including the recently endowed Tanni Block Memorial LGBTQIA+ Scholarship, which honors the memory of Tanni Block, a student leader at CSUN. Winner Alissa Guevara, who, according to Workman, brought the needs of trans students to the attention of the university to be addressed and, through their work of founding the Trans Wellness Alliance to address those needs, fully embodies the ideals behind the scholarship.

The night ended with a presentation of certificates to the graduates for their achievements. Some shared about their CSUN experiences and their hopes for the next steps in their journeys.

“Everybody appreciated the opportunity to celebrate together again in person with those closest to them,” said Workman. 

“We’re glad to see the ceremony grow again along with the resurgence of student support organizations and a feeling of hope for the future for our communities here at CSUN.”