UCLA class of 2022 celebrates the unique joy of togetherness

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Campus buzzed with graduation celebrations today fueled by crowds not seen since 2019. The return to an in-person commencement at UCLA also marks the first time the UCLA College’s undergraduate graduation was spread across three ceremonies to make room for one of UCLA’s largest graduating classes ever.

Outside Pauley Pavilion, thousands of parents and guests mingled outdoors carrying teddy bears, flowers and other gifts, as confused food-delivery robots struggled to navigate the crowd. Students in graduation gowns, leis and decorated mortarboards hugged their friends and family before dashing away to line up for the processional.

Among the dozens of graduations on campus today, the crowd outside Pauley Pavilion was the largest, with a total of about 6,100 graduates and 26,400 guests expected at the three ceremonies.

The graduates come from all over, and range in age from 18 to 79. More than 35% come from low-income families, and 36% came to UCLA as transfer students. Approximately one-third are the first generation in their families to graduate from a four-year university.

“I’ve been working toward this my whole life,” said Veronica Lavín Solano, who earned her bachelor’s in English. The first-generation student’s sash featured the flag of Mexico, where her parents immigrated from. “I’m so glad my parents get to be here in person. They are so proud of me … UCLA was my dream school.”

Psychology major William Molina’s family described their son’s elation at graduating in person, after the pandemic turned the transfer student’s first year at UCLA into a remote experience.

“I’m so proud and excited to see him graduate,” said his father Nelson Molina, an immigrant from El Salvador who said he spent his life working hard so his kids could succeed.

Over the course of the week, about 1,300 graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 will also attend in-person celebrations to make up for the remote graduations during the pandemic. Other ceremonies across campus featured keynotes addresses by presenters including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, actor, activist and alumnus George Takei, Academy-Award winning actor Troy Kotsur, Indigenous artist and alumna Mercedes Dorame and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu. Award-winning gymnast, activist and UCLA alumna Katelyn Ohashi spoke at all three of the UCLA College ceremonies in Pauley Pavilion.

Inside Pauley, the required face masks concealed smiles but nothing could hide the crowd’s enthusiasm.

“After two years, amazingly, of virtual and hybrid commencement events, it’s a joy to be back in Pauley Pavilion for today’s ceremony,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “A tradition like this one bonds you to generations of UCLA students who have come before.”

Read more on UCLA Newsroom.