A series of Commencement events this week will celebrate diversity at Fresno State, including the first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) Commencement Celebration at 2:30 p.m. Friday, May 16 in the Leon S. and Pete P. Peters Educational Center Auditorium.
This year also marks the first Commencement for President Joseph I. Castro, who with his wife Mary, will be among four honored guests at the oldest and largest of the diversity celebrations, Fresno State’s 37th Annual Latino Commencement Celebration at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Save Mart Center.
Also honored at Latino Commencement will be actor Alfonso Arau and fallen California Highway Patrol officer Juan Jaime Gonzales, a Fresno State graduate who died in a car accident while responding to a call in February. Gonzales participated in Latino Commencement in 2004.
The two events are among five Commencement celebrations of diversity at Fresno State that will be held after the University Commencement at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
The others are the 29th African-American Recognition Program that will feature best-selling author and nationally renowned speaker Joshua Fredenburg at 2 p.m. at the Save Mart Center; the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at noon in the Satellite Student Union; and the International Commencement Celebration at 1 p.m. in the Music Building Concert Hall.
Parking is free for all Commencement events on campus.
“Over the last 20 years, the event has welcomed well over 200,000 family members and guests who want to express a genuine interest in giving us the opportunity to educate their children,” said Dr. Luz Gonzalez, dean of the College of Social Sciences.
This year more than 13,000 guests are expected as four individuals of the Latino community are honored.
Arau, an actor, director, writer, producer and entrepreneur, is among the four honorees.
Arau has been most known for his role in directing films, “Like Water for Chocolate” and “A Walk in the Clouds.” He is known for acting in films including, “The Wild Bunch,” “Three Amigos” and “Romancing the Stone” and has made many appearances in American television series and feature films.
Castro, who is the university’s first Latino president, and First Lady Mary Castro, will also be honored. Fresno State’s eighth president is a Hanford native and his wife is a Laton native.
Juan Jaime Gonzalez will be honored posthumously. He was a Nu Alpha Kappa fraternity alumnus and member of the Latino Commencement Celebration Committee.
For more information, contact Luz Gonzalez at 559.278.3013 or Kent Karsevar, director of development for the College of Social Sciences, at 559.278.4381.
LGBTQ Commencement Celebration
Nearly 300 people are expected for the inaugural celebration of the LGBTQ Commencement Celebration with the theme, “Agents of Social Change” that will feature rainbow stoles and tassels.
The Fresno Gay Men’s Chorus will sing the national anthem and incoming Fresno State freshman Angel Garcia, a graduating senior from Roosevelt High School for the Performing Arts, will perform a special theatrical dance depicting his story of coming out, equality and culture.
The United Student Pride club at Fresno State is presenting the event recognizing 15 students who have signed up to participate, said Curtis Lee Ortega, event chairperson.
Ortega said Castro reached out to the students when he learned of the event to commend them for honoring diversity at Fresno State and the club invited him to deliver the closing remarks.
“This ceremony in particular represents an overall narrative of the impact of acceptance, community involvement, diversity and equality,” said Ortega, who is receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology and will participate in the first celebration.
“I began to receive emails from faculty and staff who really wanted to be involved in the platform party. Not only was I surprised at how many graduates wanted to participate, but the number of faculty and staff who wanted to participate was also a surprise.”
Ortega added that the theme reflects events such as the legalization of gay marriage, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the rejection of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
The keynote speaker will be Peter Robertson, a founding member of the United Student Pride club 27 years ago, who will discuss the theme topic.
A three-time graduate of Fresno State who earned a master’s of business administration degree in 2005, Robertson is director of marketing and engagement for the Fresno State Alumni Association. In addition to founding the club in 1987, he co-founded the Fresno Reel Pride Film Festival in 1990 and serves as festival director. He was the first grand marshal for Fresno Rainbow Pride Parade when it began in 1991 and established the Bulldog Pride Fund at Fresno State in 2005.
“Peter stands as a legend in the LGBTQ community with a record of accomplishments,” Ortega said.
Zoyer Zyndel, a 2012 Fresno State graduate and current master’s student in social work, will also speak. He was invited to speak at the celebration “as a result of his endless and tireless devotion to the LGBTQ community,” Ortega said.
USP adviser Dr. Kris Clarke, associate professor of social work education, will bestow rainbow stoles on the grads.
African-American Recognition Program
Over 120 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral candidates will be honored at the 29th Annual African-American Recognition Program with Dr. Dawn Lewis of the Kinesiology Department serving as emcee.
The keynote will be delivered by Fredenburg, an author and leadership, relationship and diversity expert who is a commentator for Gen. Y Television.
Fredenburg has established a personal mission to empower young adults with effective leadership, career, relationship and success strategies that will provide a positive impact in their home and community.
He has published five books and developed the annual national Circle of Change Leadership Conference that prepares student leaders in college for executive-level leadership positions after graduation. Fredenburg often connects students with leaders of companies such as Pepsi, Columbia Pictures, CNN, Chipotle and Fox.
Castro and Dr. Carolyn Coon, interim vice president for student affairs, will also address the graduates. The Kremen School of Education and Human Development’s Dean’s Medalist Clifford D. Frazier will sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” commonly referred to as the Black National Anthem.
The African-American EDGE Initiative and the Black Faculty and Staff Association will present special awards to the participants.
For more information, contact Dr. Francine Oputa, 559.278.6946.
College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP)
Over 80 students from families with migrant or seasonal working backgrounds will be recognized by the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at the Annual Migrant Student Graduation Luncheon for earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
CAMP students are often first-generation college graduates within their families, said director Ofelia Gamez.
The keynote speaker will be Jose Arrezola of Parlier, who is the Graduate Dean’s Medalist for Student Affairs for the class of 2014.
Former CAMP students Maria and Karina Plascencia, who are twin sisters completing their doctorate in clinical psychology at Alliant University, will also be recognized. They graduated from Fresno State in spring 2009 with master’s degrees in counseling (marriage and family therapy option).
Fresno State CAMP assists migrant students by providing recruitment, academic, personal, career, cultural, leadership and retention services.
For more information, contact Gamez at 559.278.4768.
International Commencement Celebration
The International Commencement Celebration will honor about 60 graduates of the 127 eligible students from 25 countries.
Student speakers will be Distinguished International Undergraduate Student Bree Farley of Australia and Distinguished International Graduate Student Navreet Mahal of India.
The Phyllis Watts Eudy Memorial Award will be presented to Yongseol Jang of South Korea.
A reception precedes the event at 11:30 a.m.
For more information, contact Paul Hofmann, director of International Student Services and Programs, at 559.278.2782.
(University Communications news interns Ashlie Day and Jodi Raley contributed to this report.)