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CPP Celebrates Resilience and Determination of Class of 2024

A group of grads from the College of Business smile during the 2024 commencement ceremonies.

Creatively decorated mortar boards, colorful stoles and celebratory dances breathed life into Commencement for the class of 2024.

More than 6,900 students received their graduate and undergraduate degrees to the cheers of thousands more family members, friends and supporters during 12 ceremonies from May 17 to May 20.

Most of the graduates entered Cal Poly Pomona at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic four years ago, beginning their college journey with online classes. Many had no high school graduation, so crossing the stage to receive their diplomas proved to be an even more significant milestone for many.

Professor Emerita Lauren Bricker, who served as the College of Environmental Design’s interim dean from 2020 to 2022, addressed the students in the style of a letter, lauding the “extraordinary class” for its determination and resilience.

“There are constructive lessons that we can take from this period. Firstly, we were forced to shake complacency out of our lives,” she said. “We recognize the inequity of conditions impacting the health and quality of life of people from different social and economic classes. This realization forced a reset of the definition of success in all our fields. Your polytechnic education has prepared you to contribute your skills and creativity to the needs of a diverse population living in a rapidly changing environment.”

Catherine SachsOne of those graduates poised to use her talents to make contributions includes Catherine Sachs, a landscape architecture graduate and a Julian McPhee Scholar. Her parents Diana Chan and Harry Sachs sat up front to cheer on their daughter, along with a group of family members and friends.

Chan said her daughter, who has a job lined up in August, has been interested in landscape architecture since she was a sophomore in high school. It’s great to see her goal being realized, said Chan.

“It’s a very emotional time,” Chan said, her voice cracking. “I am very proud of her.”

Harry Sachs said he felt excited to see his daughter graduate.

“It’s one of the happiest days of my life. We’re really proud of her for all the hard work she’s done,” he said. “And Cal Poly Pomona, I can’t say enough about the experience they gave her here to enable her to bring her skills out and get her on her career path. It really made her who she is. We’re really proud of her being alumni here.”

After the ceremonies, students gathered to pose for selfies with friends and photos with their families at the top of the hill behind the quad.

Hospitality management graduate Katie Wilson, who finished her classes in December and moved to Boston to work as a rooms operations voyager with Marriott International in February, returned to campus to cross the stage. Wilson is a 2024 McPhee Scholar and spoke during her college ceremony. She recalled touring campus before she enrolled with a desire to major in business, but after the tour guide mentioned the hospitality management program, something clicked. She lauded the hands-on education she received for helping her find her career passion and path.

“The Collins College has one of the best hospitality programs in the world,” she said. “The connections within the college are amazing. They have alumni in every sector from restaurants to hotels to events. They also have great opportunities for networking with industry people.”

Jiovanny Gonzalez, a landscape architecture graduate, grew up doing landscape maintenance with his father. He always had a passion for art and design, so while pursuing an associate degree in landscape maintenance, he decided to apply to Cal Poly Pomona to continue his education. The biggest challenge over the four years was adjusting to sitting in front of a computer for so long during the pandemic when he is so used to physical work, he said. The biggest reward of earning his degree was to go deeper into design.

“It was just getting a system down on how to research and getting into methodologies to create meaningful designs, not just something that looks pretty and is not used as intended,” he said.

Commencement featured several student and guest speakers, including honorary doctorate recipients Brian Jaramillo (‘87, construction engineering), the chief operations officer of the Riverside-based construction company Tilden Coil, and David Singelyn (’84, accounting and computer information), the co-founder of American Homes For Rent. Singelyn’s wife, Ruth (’84, accounting), also was a 2024 honorary doctorate recipient.

Brian JaramilloJaramillo urged the graduates to use their knowledge and passion to give back to Cal Poly Pomona and their communities, find a vocation that they love, take responsibility for improving their environment and seize opportunities.

“Treat every opportunity as if it were your only shot,” he said. “Every time I was trusted with opportunities or increased responsibility, my mindset was that I only have one shot to come through. I found that success leads to larger opportunities and responsibilities while failure leads to less opportunities and a slower growth trajectory. Not all time in life is equal. Recognize your opportunities and give them your all as if it were your last shot.”

Ruth and David Singelyn receive their honorary doctoratesSingelyn urged the graduates to continually invest in their communication skills, maintain a professional digital presence and remember the power of relationships.

“Dream big and create a life vision that you have passion in. Be purposeful in pursuing your life dreams and visions,” he said. “If you can dream it, you can do it…Remember that dreams worth pursuing are not easy or without risk. If they were easy, they would have been accomplished and done before. Take measured and reasonable risks and do not be foolish.”

President Soraya M. Coley recalled her own college graduation and how even though she didn’t know the direction of her life at the time, she believed in ability to achieve what she set her mind to accomplish. She encouraged the graduates to set the bar high for themselves, exercise the discipline needed to achieve their goals and look for opportunities to grow.

“Initially know that every failure holds a lesson and the seeds of future success,” she said. “Learn from it and concern yourself not with what you tried and may have failed at, but what is still possible for you to do.”

Female graduate holds up her diploma while exiting the commencement stage.
Two male graduates stand together and smile
Two female graduates pose for a photo
Male graduate gives a thumbs up
Group of students from the college of business smile during the commencement ceremonies.

Notable Quotables Overheard at Commencement

Students, faculty and speakers offer wisdom and share their perspectives on graduation.

“You all have a very important role to play to ensure that we continue to be the number one agriculture state in the nation and continue to help feed the nation and the world. There is no culture without agriculture.”

California Treasurer Fiona Ma

"As we embark on the next chapter of our lives, we must embrace the unknown with courage and determination, knowing that the foundation we have built here at Cal Poly Pomona will guide us through any challenges that lie ahead. With passion in our hearts and knowledge in our minds, we can seize every opportunity and continue to strive for greatness.

-Ally Hubbard, 2024 Julian McPhee recipient from the College of Business Administration

“This ceremony marks a culmination of years of dedication, perseverance and intellectual growth. We celebrate the remarkable achievements of our graduating engineers who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to excellence in their studies, research endeavors and community engagement. The class of 2024 embodies the spirit of innovation and problem solving that defines the field of engineering.”

-Dean Andrew Ketsdever, College of Engineering

"Graduating from CPP signifies the end of an era for me. I feel like I truly had the college experience and mentorship that equipped me for life post-grad. I will remember the memories I've made with friends and all of the late-night study sessions that in the end have paid off."

-Anais Hernandez, CLASS, communication

“In 2017, I proudly walked across this very stage and was hooded and received my terminal degree, marking not the end of a journey, but the continuation of a lifelong commitment to the transformative power of education. Today, I stand before you as a beneficiary of the boundless opportunities that a Cal Poly Pomona education affords.”

-Julian Rodriguez (’17, doctorate in education), California Regional Occupational Center superintendent

“It’s the opportunities that are presented to us as students. It’s very unique and very special for all of us, and with just how small the school is, it really does feel like a second family.”

-Rani Hina Okada Hamamoto, 2024 Julian McPhee recipient from The Collins College of Hospitality Management

“It’s the small class sizes. I think I have had a lot of the same professors and the same friends in my classes. I feel like I have made some great connections here and I can count on them for support.”

-Amanda Martinez, Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture, nutrition and dietetics