California State University, Long Beach
Inside CSULB Logo

Graduates Celebrate With Cultural Ceremonies

Published: May 2, 2016

Among the most diverse universities in the nation, CSULB shows its diversity in many ways all year round. One of the more perceptible ways occurs in May through a variety of cultural graduation celebrations.

Along with the campus-wide college-based commencement ceremonies that take place over a four-day period (May 17-20) before roughly 70,000 family members and friends, CSULB also holds seven separate graduation events recognizing and celebrating the university’s diversity.

“The rich diversity of our student population makes The Beach a wonderful place to pursue an education,” said CSULB President Jane Close Conoley. “Our cultural graduation ceremonies embrace that diversity in the best way possible—by honoring each group’s unique heritage and contributions, while celebrating the shared joy of commencement.”

Among the campus groups holding celebrations are Pilipino; African-American; Cambodian; American Indian; Chicano/Latino; and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA+) as part of the Lavender Graduation Ceremony.

As expected, those individual events are generally more intimate and culturally relevant to each group, with nearly 1,000 students taking part.

“The American Indian graduation ceremony has a long history at CSULB in celebrating and recognizing the academic achievements of our American Indian students as they transition to becoming CSULB alumni,” said Craig Stone, Director of the American Indian Studies Program and faculty advisor to the campus’ American Indian Student Council and Pow Wow Committee. “This celebration allows for families to honor their relations in culturally appropriate ways that are especially meaningful to our American Indian graduates.”

Stone noted that songs composed in various American Indian languages are sung during the ceremonies to honor graduating students. Those songs have been composed specifically for the occasion, at which time students are recognized with prayers and gifts for their achievements.

Grace Porotesano, a sociology major from San Diego who will be graduating on May 18, sees the importance of such celebrations, particularly for the Pacific Islander group she is a part of.

“These cultural graduation ceremonies are important because it is a way of recognizing the academic accomplishments of students of color,” said Porotesano, who noted that, on average, Pacific Islanders tend to have the lowest college admission, retention and graduation rates compared to other minorities. “This is not only a recognition for the graduating Pacific Islanders for their hard work, but also a recognition for their families and friends who supported their efforts towards pursuing higher education.”

She said, above all, this ceremony shows that despite the stereotypes and the statistics about Pacific Islanders and education, they can be scholars.

“We can be leaders, thinkers and role models,” she said. “It is a way to show the younger generations that they can also do it and that there are Pacific Islanders out there who attained a college degree and are doing great things.”

Alejandro Muro, who is graduating on May 17 with an M.A. in the Social and Culture Analysis of Education, will be part of the Lavender Graduation ceremony, which is for LGBTQIA+ students, family and friends.

“Lavender Graduation is important for students who identify as LGBTQIA+ because the event holds space and time for students, friends, faculty and allies to celebrate their accomplishments at CSULB,” said the Adelanto, Calif., native. “The ceremony allows folks to embrace and embody their queerness without judgement, harassment and scrutiny and at the same time allows for the LGBTQIA+ community to affirm each other in celebration.”

CSULB annually ranks among the universities that confer the most degrees to minority students and has been one of the most successful four-year public institutions at reducing opportunity gaps–the difference in graduation rates between typically underrepresented students and the rest of the university–according to a recent report by the Education Trust.

The dates, times and locations of the cultural celebrations taking place at CSULB are:

• Pilipino Graduation Celebration: Saturday, May 14, 11 a.m., University Student Union ballrooms.

• African-American Graduation Celebration: Saturday, May 14, 2 p.m., Walter Pyramid.

• Cambodian Graduation Celebration: Saturday, May 14, 5 p.m., University Student Union Southwest Terrace.

• American Indian Graduation Celebration and Alumni Reunion: Saturday, May 14, 6 p.m., University Student Union ballrooms.

• Chicano/Latino Graduation Celebration: Sunday, May 15, Walter Pyramid. There will be ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

• Lavender (LGBTQIA+) Graduation Celebration: Monday, May 16, 5 p.m., University Student Union ballrooms.

• Pacific Islander Graduation Celebration: Monday, May 16, 6 p.m., University Student Union-205.

–Shayne Schroeder