Bird Watching

Graduates leave 2022 start with a sense of hope and possibility

Sabrina Hurd did a happy dance as she crossed the stage at the Sacramento State 2022 launch. She fought back tears as she returned to her seat, diploma in hand, then shot a selfie video as she moved the tassel on his mortar from right to left.

Finally, she had done it, earning her business degree the hard way — balancing school, work, and raising her daughter Scarlytt, whose school, football, and cheerleading kept Hurd on her toes.

“I’m 32, so I’ve been working on it for a long time,” Hurd said. “I feel very happy.”

Joy and resilience were recurring themes last weekend as a record 9,435 Hornets celebrated their graduations. This year’s debut, held May 20-22 at the Golden 1 Center, marked the first time since 2019 that the University held traditional ceremonies, returning after COVID-19 shelved them in 2020 and 2021.

A record 9,435 students received their diplomas at Sacramento State’s 2022 commencement ceremonies. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

During seven ceremonies over three days, the Golden 1 Center welcomed thousands of friends and families who applauded the achievements of their loved ones graduates. They were waving signs, blowing kisses and lifting babies high into the air. They took pictures of the graduates on the floor, many of whom had decorated their mortars with flowers, celebratory words and political statements.

“I worked my assets”, one read, “My body my choice”, another.

Strong emotions frequently gripped President Robert S. Nelsen as he delivered his congratulatory speech, noting that the 2022 graduates faced “unprecedented challenges” to graduate.

“I know there was a lot of stress, a lot of sleepless nights,” he said. “But the fire burned inside of you, and today you taste the sweet taste of success.”

Throughout the weekend, graduates posted photos and sentiments on social media using #SacStateGrad. The message of Quoc Vu, a business graduate, probably resonated with many.

“Wow. My time has finally come to start a new chapter in life, a chapter bigger and better than before,” Saw captioned a photo of himself in graduation attire. “I will always be proud to be a Sac State Hornets.”

Donna Walters, a student speaker for the College of Business ceremony on May 20, said the challenges of the past few years have made her stronger.

“We faced adversity and succeeded,” said Walters, who earned her master’s degree in commerce. “It’s up to us to create a new beginning.”

Accounting graduate Nataliya Ivakhov said the pivot to online learning was abrupt and shocking. However, “I felt supported by my peers, fellow students and faculty members,” she said. “I think the faculty have done an amazing job” adapting to the shift from in-person to virtual teaching during the height of the pandemic.

Ivakhov took care of a sick relative, got married and got pregnant on her way to graduation.

“When you persevere through challenges, you feel even more accomplished,” she said. Ivakhov is pursuing a career in state government accounting.

Three graduate students, in academic suits, indoors, smiling
The debut marked a joyous return to downtown Sacramento after two years in which traditional ceremonies could not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduating students and their friends and families celebrated their accomplishments and looked to the future. (Sacramento State/Nicole Fowler)

Halie Pennington, who accepted her sociology degree on May 21, sported Hornet green fingernails and toenails for the occasion. From her seat, she greeted a large number of loved ones in the stands above her.

Pennington, a Sacramento native, is the first college graduate in her family, and her mother, siblings and fiancé were all on hand to witness it.

“I grew up here and love Sac State,” Pennington said.

Her plans for the future are uncertain, in part because she will soon be moving to Southern California with her fiancé. Her plans for the graduation party were in place, however.

“We’re all going to my brother’s tonight for a party,” she said.

The celebration seemed to be in order for all involved. Students walked out of the arena at the end of each ceremony and into life after college as Sac State’s Fine Arts Brass Ensemble performed “Pomp and Circumstance,” perhaps reminiscent of Nelsen’s heartfelt words:.

“(Y)ou will never lose your education,” he said. “No one can take it from you. You will never stop being a Hornet.

About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy birdwatching from their perch next to the living room window.