Ӱ Class of 2024 celebrates Commencement

Published May 23, 2024

Angel Stadium in Anaheim was transformed into a final, celebratory stop for Cal State Long Beach graduates, as more than 12,800 students were estimated to have attended Commencement in their black caps, gowns and regalia during five days of ceremonies, May 19-23.

The festivities – recognizing the completion of undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as various credentials – started Sunday with the College of Engineering and concluded Thursday with the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics.

“I feel excited. It feels surreal,” said Kenneth Peña of Compton, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in math/economics. “It’s a monumental moment, that’s for sure. I’m the first in my family to graduate from college.”  

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Student holds degree case at Commencement

Raya Torres, a journalism graduate who completed the University Honors Program, was recognized during the ceremony as one of two outstanding baccalaureate winners. She maintained a 3.95 GPA and won several awards for her research, leadership and work with Beach TV News.  

“It means the world to graduate from Ӱ today,” said Torres, who started her college career in 2020 on Zoom. “Four years ago, I wasn’t granted the opportunity to have a high school graduation due to the pandemic, so to have my name called and walk alongside such talented graduates is a privilege and honor. I am grateful to Ӱ for granting me the opportunities to grow and excel.”

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Dance graduate onstage during Commencement

Wendy Gonzalez is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies.

“I feel super excited,” said Gonzalez of Long Beach. “I’m first generation, the first in my whole family to graduate. It’s very overwhelming and very exciting. All the professors and all the staff were really just there for you, and there for you to succeed, and I couldn’t have chosen a better school. For me, it’s an honor to be able to attend a dream school – something I never thought was possible for me.”

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Ӱ lining up to walk on the Commencement stage

During a taped message, President Jane Close Conoley said, “Congratulations graduates of 2024! You made it through a pandemic, global unrest, and much more and stayed focused on reaching this significant milestone.

“I wish you lives of happiness, curiosity, learning and service. I think these are the elements of well-lived lives.”

“It went really well. It was faster than I thought, so it was nice,” said Mojan Miraghasi of Irvine, who is graduating with a degree in communication studies. “It was smooth, so it was nice. And I’m happy. I loved it.”

Amy Neibel, the mother of creative writing/English graduate Lauren Neibel, said she enjoyed the ceremony.

“I thought it was a great graduation, and we’re very proud,” said Amy, who is from Henderson, Nevada. “I liked the stage. It all looked very nice, and it went smoothly.”

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Friends and family at Commencement

Mirlanda Robles of El Monte, who’s also graduating with a degree in creative writing/English, said, “I thought it was really nice. It was great to see everybody out here, and some of the people I hadn’t seen for a while. I thought it was beautiful.”

She added, “I feel like this school was the right choice for me. It was very inexpensive, but very open, with really intelligent people. I’m very happy.”

Michael Ahland, an associate professor of linguistics, said Commencement is an opportunity for the faculty to celebrate the students.  

“It’s really all about them, isn’t it?” he said. “We want to celebrate achievement, hard work and scholarship. It’s a chance for us to greet and appropriately recognize these students in front of their families. We are in a unique position to offer good news and celebrate their achievements in front of family, and that’s a lot of fun.”

After graduates moved their tassels from right to left and the official ceremonies were over, they exited through the stadium’s main gate, where DJ B-Rokk played bumpin’, celebratory tunes at the entry diamond. Graduates took pictures with their families and each other, with Elbee (Ӱ’s shark mascot) and in front of a four-foot-tall gold 2024 sculpture. Hugs and tears were plentiful.  

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Ӱ graduate celebrates with her mother

“Honestly, it feels very fulfilling,” said Kevin Fernandez, who is graduating with a degree in journalism. “I was a transfer student, so it was a very short time. But just to see the growth I’ve made, and the connections I’ve made – everything was phenomenal. It felt like a weight off my shoulders. Walking the stage, doing the pose, seeing my family, seeing my friends – I can’t even describe the feeling. Seeing everyone in the crowd, seeing the joy in my parents. I got emotional.

“I grew up in Anaheim,” he added. “To graduate in my hometown – honestly, it’s a great feeling.”  

Mitali Jain, the outgoing president, said Commencement was a “surreal” experience.

“So, the class of 2024 went through a pandemic, we went through so many things,” said Jain, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and diet. “But this is our moment. I’m very proud of my classmates. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve them, and it was an honor to be friends with them. They were the ones who got me through these four years, so I’m really just grateful for it.”

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Woman graduate at Commencement

Ezra Schlarb of Long Beach, who is graduating with a degree in creative writing/English, said he’s ready to move on to the next big thing.

“I’m grateful to Long Beach because it’s raised me my whole life, but it’s time to go, and I’m grateful for the time I had,” he said. “I learned a lot, especially about people. I learned a lot about others, and how diverse Long Beach is. For that I’m grateful, because it broadened my perspectives.  

“I’m excited to be done.” 

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Women graduates at Ӱ's Commencement
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Graduate at Ӱ's Commencement
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American Indian drum playing at Commencement
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Music graduates sing at Commencement
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Relative hugs a graduate at Commencement