University of California Irvine: UCI to host commencement ceremony at Angel Stadium of Anaheim

The University of California, Irvine will hold its commencement ceremony for the graduating class of 2022 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Highlighting the Wednesday, June 15, event will be a commencement address by Kal Penn, actor, writer and former White House aide.

More than 8,000 graduating students will be attending with their friends and families. It’s the first all-campus commencement since 2014, when President Barack Obama spoke to excited Anteater students, families and supporters at Angel Stadium.

“Having our 2022 commencement celebration at Angel Stadium of Anaheim is our chance to celebrate, as an entire campus, the accomplishments of our graduating students and their families,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “They have demonstrated their resilience and perseverance over the last two difficult years, succeeding in and out of the classroom, and are prepared and eager to be our future workforce and leaders.”

Traditionally, UCI has held commencement ceremonies over a weekend in the campus’s Bren Events Center for each of its academic schools. Those celebrations remain in place this year, with the Angel Stadium event serving as a capstone.

With the graduating classes growing in size, the Bren Events Center ceremonies are proving to be logistically challenging, given the arena’s limited size. This move gives students and families options to celebrate at either or both venues. Additionally, while hosting at Angel Stadium is not directly due to COVID-19, having an outdoor site brings with it the benefits of a safer experience. And, as with other large institutions, UCI graduates are deserving of a large-scale celebration.

Graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 – most of whom were unable to attend in-person commencement ceremonies – can submit an interest form to participate in the Angel Stadium event, and the university will strive to accommodate them. The priority, however, will be the class of 2022, including those who walked in December but are current grads.

Kal Penn to be commencement speaker

The highlight of any commencement ceremony is its speaker, and Penn represents a link to the memorable 2014 event with President Obama.

Penn is an actor, writer, producer and former associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. He is known for his starring roles in “Designated Survivor,” “House,” Mira Nair’s “The Namesake,” the “Harold & Kumar” franchise, and the upcoming Christmas series “The Santa Clause” with Tim Allen for Disney +.

From 2009 to 2011, Penn took a sabbatical from acting to serve in the Obama/Biden administration, where he was the president’s liaison to young Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, as well as the arts community. In this role, he worked on a range of issues, including the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, the Affordable Care Act, Pell Grants, arts and culture programs, the DREAM Act, and rapid responses to the BP oil spill and an earthquake in Haiti.

Penn spoke at UCI in 2014 as part of the Associated Students of UCI Speakers & Debate series.

The estimated degree breakdown for the 2021-22 academic year is:

Bachelor’s degrees: 8,467, with social sciences accounting for more than 26 percent
Master’s degrees: 732
Doctoral degrees: 314
Law degrees: 182
Medical degrees: 102
Community college transfer students earning bachelor’s degrees: 2,443
Federal Pell Grant recipients earning bachelor’s degrees: 3,499
In a testament to the campus’s dedication to access and affordability, 45 percent of undergraduates receiving bachelor’s degrees are first-generation college students. This large percentage of traditionally underserved students is one reason why UCI has twice earned the No. 1 spot in a New York Times ranking of universities “doing the most for the American dream.”

In addition, graduation data validates UCI’s continued status as a Hispanic-serving institution, a federal designation awarded to universities where at least 25 percent of undergraduates identify as Latino and at least half of all students receive financial aid. This year, UCI will grant bachelor’s degrees to an estimated 2,012 Latinos.

The 2014 UCI commencement program served as the template for Angel Stadium to hold many graduations for several colleges and universities in the area. This year, California State University, Long Beach will also have its commencement ceremony there.

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