Dear Campus Community,

As students and faculty finish final exams in the coming days, we have a momentous week ahead of us. For more than 10,000 students, commencement will mark the fulfillment of many aspirations and dreams—for themselves and their families.

Our ceremonies are rooted in a deep academic tradition, but commencement is about more than the conferral of degrees. When we gather together—family and friends, faculty and staff, and community members—we are celebrating the transformation that these students have undergone during their time at San Jose State University.

I hope all of you will join me in acknowledging the tremendous achievement of these students who completed degrees in 2017-18 by offering well wishes as they begin a new chapter in their lives. Next year, we anticipate holding both fall and spring commencements to allow all students and families to celebrate in the moment. For more details on this year’s ceremonies, visit the commencement website.

Outstanding Graduates

This year, we will continue with our tradition of presenting the Outstanding Graduating Senior Awards and Outstanding Graduate Thesis Award during commencement, when these students will be recognized at their college’s ceremony.

The students selected to receive the Outstanding Graduating Senior Awards have shown a commitment to community service and leadership while maintaining a stellar academic record.

Sierra Peace, a College of Social Sciences psychology major, arrived at San Jose State as a 16-year-old freshman with her sights set on medical school. She juggled four jobs while volunteering with the Third Street Community Center, the Associated Students community garden and Regional Medical Center of San Jose. Her 3.97 GPA qualified her for Educational Opportunity Program Honors for four years.

In the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, Department of Health Science and Recreation’s Nardos Darkera has given back to the Spartan community while maintaining a 3.85 GPA. As a public health student, she has represented San Jose State as a United Nations Foundation Global Health Fellow, served as a peer teaching assistant, and worked as a lead peer advisor in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Student Success Center.

I am also pleased to recognize the exemplary research of a top student this year. A graduate student in the Department of Environmental Studies in the College of Social Sciences, Emily Moffitt collected feathers from more than 160 birds at the San Jose Coyote Creek field station. She analyzed the specimens to understand where the birds spent their breeding seasons, providing important information about migrations that could prove critical for preserving habitat.

Educator, Musician Receives Honorary Doctorate

I also am looking forward to welcoming Artemio Posadas, an educator of traditional Mexican music and dance, at the College of Humanities and Arts ceremony. Posadas, our 2018 honorary doctorate of Humane Letters recipient, was a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow.

He was born in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, where he discovered son huasteco, regional music, punctuated with poetic, instrumental and dance improvisation and falsetto breaks. The NEA posted excerpts of two lively numbers. A tremendous influence for generations, Posadas has taught musicians and dancers for 40 years. Read more about his achievements online.

A New Tradition Rooted in History

Among the very first items spectators will see at each ceremony is San Jose State’s new mace, an ornamental staff or scepter borne as a symbol of authority by the individual leading the processional of students, faculty and administrators as they enter the venue and take their seats.

The tradition of the mace derives from medieval times in England, when it was held by a guard for dignitaries at ceremonial functions, and maces remain in use today by governing bodies worldwide. The carrying of the mace will add an extra air of dignity and authenticity to our commencement.

Yvonne Escalante, ’13 MFA Spatial Arts, considered elements of our own university history when she set out to design and create the new ceremonial mace. Her philosophy as a craftswoman and SJSU Art and Art History lecturer also helped to shape the meaning of this new piece of SJSU history. Read more about Escalante’s process in designing the mace on the WSQ Magazine Blog.


An enormous number of faculty and staff members, along with alumni and retirees, led by Commencement Committee chair Brian Bates, have been working together quite literally to re-write the script for how San Jose State honors its graduates. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has contributed to this effort and who will continue to work on stage and behind the scenes through all seven ceremonies this week. Your willingness to move mountains for San Jose State is an attribute of this university community that I have come to appreciate deeply.

With congratulations and gratitude,

Dr. Mary A. Papazian, President

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