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Students, families celebrate fall 2019 commencement

Thousands of students become alumni with the switch of a tassel

student holding cords out at graduation
December 16, 2019

Just as the sun was cresting over Desert Financial Arena on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University on Monday morning, Eder Estrada stood as his mother adjusted his tie and stole. Having just earned a Bachelor of Science in construction management, Estrada wore a gold hard hat instead of a mortarboard.

“I feel excited,” he said. “Mission accomplished!”

Estrada was one of about 6,100 undergraduate students who received their degrees during fall 2019 commencement at ASU. Including graduate students, the fall cohort of students totaled more than 8,400 people.

“Who’s ready to graduate?” President Michael Crow asked the undergrads assembled. “Ninety-eight percent of our graduates are on to graduate school or immediate employment.”

Estrada falls into the latter category. He already has a job building the new Terminal 3 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. He’ll miss ASU, where his two years “went by quick,” he said. “It was magnificent.”

His advice to those still toiling in classroom, lab and library? “Work hard. Stay dedicated. Family is important to support you.”

Zixu Zhao stood outside with his family. They flew in from China a few days ago to celebrate Zhao’s accomplishment of earning a bachelor's degree in marketing. No one could remember which side of his mortarboard the tassel was supposed to go on. (The right side before the ceremony; the left after the degree has formally been awarded. “Left as you leave.”)

His feelings? “Just normal. My parents are excited.”

Zhao plans to go to the United Kingdom to earn his master’s degree in marketing. “I liked it,” he said of his time at ASU.

His advice to students? “Focus on study. Go to class.”

Crow iterated his faith in the latest generation of grads, citing a news clip he saw recently where a 25-year-old New Zealand lawmaker responded to an older colleague's heckling during a speech about climate change by using the phrase "OK, boomer."

“I heard that and I was unbelievably inspired,” Crow said, adding that the new generation is taking on a world much different than it was 30 years ago. “What I want to hear from all of you is a lot more ‘OK, boomer.’”

Karrin Taylor Robson, secretary of the Arizona Board of Regents, greeted the grads by recalling her own commencement from ASU 32 years ago.

“Earning a college degree is a considerable achievement,” she said. “It is a significant milestone. … We hope that you will continue to call Arizona home.”

Each dean turned to the university president and presented their candidates for bachelor’s degrees based on the recommendation of the faculty. Teachers, journalists, nurses, businesspeople, landscape architects, artists and engineers all stood.

Crow conferred degrees upon the class, instructing them to move their mortarboard tassels from right to left, a ritual signifying that their degrees were official.

And then they were alumni.

Top photo: Suzanne Collett, who earned her bachelor's degree in liberal arts studies, stands with others being recognized for working while attending courses at the fall 2019 undergraduate commencement on Monday, Dec. 16, at Desert Financial Arena. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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