Decked out in graduation gown, cap, stoles and seated amongst hundreds of fellow College of Arts and Sciences students in the Jenny Craig Pavilion, Gibrán Chávez-Gudiño and Celisse Ruiz were ready to receive their official declaration as University of San Diego graduates when it happened.
Built into USD President Mary E. Lyons’ speech, unbeknownst to this pair of double majors and active campus leaders, was her announcement that they had been selected as the male and female recipients of USD’s Alcalá Award.
“Hey, that’s me!” Chávez-Gudiño (pictured, with President Lyons) recalled saying to a fellow classmate as President Lyons pointed out a few of the first-generation college student’s attributes. “I attended last year’s graduation because a lot of my friends were in it. I knew they gave out the award, but I never expected to win it,” he said.
Chávez-Gudiño, a Political Science and Theology and Religious Studies major, was co-chair of MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán), a Founders Club member, a McNair Scholar and was active in DanceSport, a recreational and competitive ballroom dancing club. He was also a leader when it came to social justice issues. He organize DREAM Act protests, trips to Ethnic Studies conferences and he conducted an independent research project entitled ”Guadalupe: Mapping the Appropriation of a Religious Symbol.” The project focused on the cultural and theological significance of this religious symbol in the Latina/o community. He presented his research at conferences, including USD’s Creative Collaborations. He won the United Front Multicultural Center Award for Inspiration earlier this month. He put his dance skills to use in the Linda Vista community each Friday by teaching Ballroom dancing to seniors at Bayside Community Center, an activity he said left him very happy after each visit.
“I had no idea. It really was overwhelming,” she said. “It’s nice being recognized for this honor and for the promise that others see in you. But there are so many other students at USD who are just as active and passionate. I feel extremely honored.”
Six people — three USD professors and three staff leaders — penned a letter of recommendation for Ruiz (pictured) to the selection committee. Ruiz, an RA in residential housing for three years, was co-director of Community Service-Learning (CSL) Social Issues Conference; Academic Coordinator for CSL/CASA; studied abroad in Morocco to better understand experiences of women living in Muslim countries; did her Honors Program senior thesis, “Sociological Analysis of the 2011 Social Movement,” on recent events in Egypt and the Arab Spring; participated in University Ministry immersion trips to Nicaragua and Tijuana and service projects Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and St. Vincent de Paul.
Both Alcalá winners have exciting future plans. Chávez-Gudiño, whose interest in theology studies grew immensely through classes and mentoring from USD Professor Orlando Espin, ThD, begins a master’s program in Theology Studies at Harvard University’s Divinity School in August. Chávez-Gudiño’s plan is to get a PhD in Systematic Theology and be a college professor.
Ruiz said she’s now learning to speak Portuguese as she prepares to go to Northern Mozambique this summer and begin working for a non-government organization (NGO), the Tehran Foundation, where she will help develop programs to strengthen rural communities with campaigns focused on conservation, HIV/AIDS prevention, upgraded rural schools and support for local entrepreneurship.
NROTC Commissions 13 USD Graduates
The San Diego Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC), which has an office at USD, held its spring Commissioning ceremony last Friday in the Camino/Founders Patio. Forty-seven members, including 13 USD graduates, were commissioned as Second Lieutenants (Marines) and Ensigns (Navy).
Among the USD honorees were Navy Ensign David Bradley, who graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Sociology, and USD’s lone Second Lieutenant, John O’Donoghue, who earned a business administration degree with an emphasis in supply chain management.
Bradley, who joined the Navy in 2006, completed his degree despite many starts and stops due to his military commitment. Last weekend was a very satisfying moment. “I’m the first person in my family to earn a college degree. I’ve been working toward it here and there, but I was finally able to climb that mountain and stick that flag at the top,” he said.
Flanked by Janice, his wife, and daughter Autumn, Bradley (pictured with Autumn) spoke glowingly about his USD experience, including the importance of one-on-one attention he got from Sociology Professor J.J. Schlichtman and a class taught by Community Service-Learning Director Chris Nayve, Sociology Professor Judith Liu and USD alumnus Emalyn Leppard.
The well-traveled Bradley is looking forward to the next destination, reporting to USS Gravely (DDG-107) to be a Surface Warfare Officer (Nuclear Option). He and his family leave Thursday, driving from California to Virginia. “It’ll be nice to hit the road, to see what America’s all about,” he said of the road trip. “We’re ready for Virginia and to start a brand new life.”
O’Donoghue also appreciated his time at USD. He played rugby, was vice president of the Sports Club Council and served on two student hearing boards. He praised USD’s academic excellence, saying “the high-quality education I got here sets me up well for the future,” but his focus is squarely on his military ambition. “This is just the beginning,” he said. “It’s a good feeling today, but I want to earn my way as a U.S. Marine. I have a lot of work ahead of me.”
Special Recognition for Graduates
The formal graduation ceremonies at USD weren’t the only way to celebrate the Class of 2011 last weekend.
The third annual Black Graduates Recognition Ceremony, held Friday at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, honored this year’s graduates (some pictured, at right) and gave Carlton Floyd, Linda Dews and Godfrey Smith special designation as a Torero Trailblazer among the faculty, staff and students, respectively.
The Pre-Professional Graduates Reception last Friday afternoon spotlighted 41 graduates in pre-law and pre-health at the Degheri Alumni Center courtyard.
The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science held its annual Honors Convocation ceremony on Saturday night, providing a chance to recognize students earning various graduate-level degrees, at USD’s Founders Chapel.
The 16th annual Chicano/a and Latino/a Graduation Recognition Ceremony was Saturday night at Shiley Theatre. USD professors Evelyn Diaz-Cruz (Theatre Arts) and Orlando Espin (Theology Studies) were passionate keynote speakers and the bilingual event gave graduates a chance to thank family members. A mariachi band arrived at the end of the ceremony to play and lead the audience to the Hahn University Center’s Forums for dinner and dancing.
The All Nations Institute for Academic Achievement ceremony was held for USD’s American Indian graduates Sunday afternoon. Faculty members from Ethnic Studies and Sociology and graduates’ family members were among those in attendance in the Degheri Alumni Center courtyard.
The weekend of celebrations continued a host of ones held earlier this month, such as USD Athletics’ Celebration of Excellence event, the United Front Multicultural Center’s sixth annual Diversity Banquet and the TRiO/USD Student Support Services Recognition Ceremony.
The 16th annual Women’s and Gender Studies and Women’s Center Banquet, held May 10, consisted of six students presenting their class capstone projects in poster form. Christina Ellsworth’s “Hook-up Culture”; Alexandra Fascenelli’s “No Longer Silenced”; Anayensi Jacobo’s “Gender Wage Gap”; Miguel Malone’s “Feminism for the 21st Century: A Critique of Third Wave Feminism”; Shauna Riley’s “Sexual Education in the United States”; and Amanda Shaffer’s “Destructive Performances of Masculinity.” Students from the USD Women’s Center were honored and the Linda A.M. Perry Award went to Jacobo (pictured).
— Ryan T. Blystone
Graduation photo, top right, courtesy of Luis Garcia; Ruiz photo courtesy of Belinda Lum.