Graduate Division Holds First In-Person Commencement Since 2019

two graduates in commencement regalia prepare for procession; one wears a magenta flower lei
Preparing for the academic processional backstage at the Herbst. (Photo by Susan Merrell)

On Friday, May 20, 2022, the Graduate Division welcomed 123 degree candidates, 48 faculty members and distinguished guests, 28 event volunteers, five musicians, and over 600 friends and family to the historic Herbst Theatre in San Francisco for our first in-person commencement in three years. It all added up to a joyous and long-awaited opportunity to gather in celebration of the newest grads from 23 master's and PhD programs. The ceremony was also live streamed for remote audience members, and the event recording is available for viewing.


Nicquet Blake, PhD, attired in academic regalia, applauds the graduates from the podium
Graduate Dean Nicquet Blake applauds the graduates at commencement. (Photo by Susan Merrell)

The event was hosted by Graduate Dean Nicquet Blake, PhD, presiding over her first commencement ceremony since joining UCSF in December 2021. In addition to congratulating and encouraging the assembled graduates, Dean Blake also offered some illuminating facts and figures about the Graduate Division's Class of 2022.

Tejal Desai, PhD '98, an alum of the UCSF/UCB joint program in Bioengineering and a professor of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at UCSF, gave the keynote address, "Pushing Boundaries Through Discovery and Community." The Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award was presented to Associate Professor Mercedes Paredes, MD, PhD '07, who also offered reflections for the graduates and assembled audience.

Following the speeches, Chancellor Sam Hawgood conferred degrees on the assembled grads, who were presented by Associate Dean Liz Silva, PhD and Assistant Dean D'Anne Duncan, PhD, and hooded by program representatives or faculty advisers. 

"May you always break down the boundaries that limit your potential."

Tejal Desai, PhD, delivers the commencement address in academic regalia
Tejal Desai, PhD (photo by Susan Merrell)

So concluded Dr. Tejal Desai's address to the graduates, in which she explored her own experiences as a UCSF PhD student in the 90s – including as a volunteer teaching middle school girls about science – to reflect on how we can continually push, cross, or break down boundaries both on our own and in community.

"As you embark on your own journey, don’t be afraid to push those boundaries when necessary ... use your talent, together with your creativity, your curiosity, to redefine them. And as you do, there will be moments where you question your decisions or are faced with uncertainty. But always remember who you are and stay true to your values. For me, I still recall sitting in the classroom in Marina Middle School, convincing my middle school students that they too could be scientists. And that glimmer of excitement of what could be her future, the one that I had as a young girl, continues to motivate me to push those boundaries. It is a vision that I carry forward every day and one that I hope my three children also see."

– Tejal Desai, PhD '98, Deborah Cowan Endowed Professor, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences and Founding Director, UCSF/UCB Master's Program in Translational Medicine

View Dr. Desai's full commencement address.

Taking on the mantle of mentoring

Each year at commencement the Associated Students of the Graduate Division present the Outstanding Faculty Mentor award to a deserving faculty member. In presenting the award to this year's honoree, Mercedes Paredes, MD, PhD, graduating MAS student Hannah Lambing observed that Paredes "...sees each of the scientists on her team as a person; a person who, yes, is dedicated to discovering the mechanisms of human development, but who also has a family, friends, extracurricular activities, and other priorities beyond those in the lab."

"Be proud! You earned these amazing degrees for your discoveries, for all the sweat and sleepless nights. But I challenge you, I ask you, I encourage you, to also see this as a beginning ... you are now wearing not just the robe of your degree, but the mantle of mentoring. Many of you are already doing it, or have done it throughout this journey: mentoring peers, mentoring the younger students, the new trainees in the lab or in your research groups. And you also teach us, the faculty; I know I have learned a lot from many of you."

– Mercedes Paredes, MD, PhD '07, Associate Professor of Neurology 

View the award presentation and Dr. Paredes's full remarks.

Mercedes Paredes, MD, PhD, dressed in academic regalia, speaks at a podium
Mercedes Paredes, MD PhD, Outstanding Faculty Mentor 2022 (photo by Susan Merrell)



PhD grads in academic regalia get ready backstage before the ceremony
Grads prepare backstage for the academic procession (Photo by Derek Tong)


PhD grads in academic regalia stand in the audience awaiting the start of the ceremony after the academic procession
PhD grads await the start of the ceremony after the academic procession into the theater (Photo by Susan Merrell)
Antoine Johnson, PhD, hold his young son in his arms and waves to the audience after being hooded by Professor Aimee Medeiros, who looks on
Antoine Johnson, PhD graduate in the History of Health Sciences, celebrates with his son after being hooded by Professor Aimee Medeiros. (Photo by Susan Merrell)
graduates in academic regalia smile and wave as they walk up a theatre aisle
Smiles and waves as graduates leave the commencement ceremony. (Photo by Susan Merrell)


Enjoy more photos:

Photos in slideshow below by Susan Merrell unless otherwise noted.


Congratulations and best wishes to the Class of 2022!