Tag Archives: Commencement

¡Somos El Colegio De Bakersfield!

¡Somos BC!

Latina Leaders BC Gang July 11 2015

Maritza Carlisle, Sandra Serrano, Odella Johnson, Dana Gelder, Lisa Kent, Victor Diaz, Sonya Christian, Kimberly Bligh, Tom Gelder, Rick Kreiser

Last evening, July 11th, a group of us attended the Latina Leaders Awards banquet to celebrate the recognition of one of our very own–Lisa Kent.  It was a beautiful event recognizing the talent of Latinas in Kern County.  We were so proud of Lisa Kent who believes in the transformational power of higher education and who believes in Bakersfield College.  She puts herself out there to do whatever it takes to help others, particularly the young women in our community.  Lisa Kent, we are proud of you!

We had two of our students, two Latinas, from the Making it Happen Program attend the event.  Mariaha Lopez, from Shafter High, and Alondra Lule from Arvin High.  Here they are with Odella Johnson, myself, Lisa Kent, and Kimberly Bligh

BC team with Mariaha Lopez  and Alondra Lule July 11 2015

Standing L to R: Odella Johnson, Director of Equity and Inclusion; Sonya Christian, President; Lisa Kent, award winner; Kimberly Bligh, Department Chair Sitting L to R: Mariaha Lopez, Alondra Lule

The Latina Leaders of Kern County is a great organization whose President this year is Norma Rojas-Mora, who is also on the Bakersfield College Foundation Board of Directors.  You can find more information at http://kernlatinas.com/.  Another recipient is Camila Chavez, Executive Director for the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) whom I met prior to my presidency when she was spearheading the movement locally to pass Prop 30 during the November 2012 election, which helped education in California as a whole and Bakersfield College in particular.

Talking about Latina leaders, I am reminded of Jo Ann Acosta, another amazing Latina, and the person behind the detailed planning and execution of BC’s Chicano/Latino Commencement Celebration.

The 21st Annual Bakersfield College Chicano/Latino Commencement Celebration, held on May 6th, was a festive evening filled with a performance by the Aztec Dancers, a live mariachi band and heartfelt remarks from our graduates. Take a moment to watch the 6:02-minute condensed version of the evening put together in a video by Manny de los Santos.


The program began with a processional of BC’s committed faculty and staff, followed by our students draped in beautiful Hispanic serape stoles with hues of green, blue, red, orange, yellow and white. Both MCs for the event, Lily Martinez (Professor, Foreign Language) and Maritza Salgueiro-Carlisle (Professor, Foreign Language) addressed the audience with translations in English and Spanish. The audience then received words of inspiration from the speaker of the evening Connie Perez (Partner, Brown Armstrong). The Student Speaker was Jose ”Jimmy” Moran (Vice President, Student Government Association), followed by the Presentacion de Certificados! Each of the graduates expressed their heartfelt appreciation for all who touched their lives, there was barely a dry eye in sight!

Thank you Jo Ann Acosta, Corny Rodriguez, the Committee and all parties that helped make the Chicano Commencement a cultural celebration to remember! and thank you Karla Young for capturing content for me for this blog.

More photos can be found at:

¡Somos El Colegio De Bakersfield!

¡Sí Se Puede!

My First Commencement – Bakersfield College’s 99th!

Dr. Sonya Christian at Bakersfield College's 99th Commencement

Sonya Christian at BC’s 99th Commencement

May 10, 2013 was BC’s 99th commencement.  My first as president.

Faculty, staff, and administration marched into Memorial Stadium, ready and excited to celebrate the hard work and determination of every single Bakersfield College student. Those who have never been to a Bakersfield College commencement had little idea what these dedicated professionals had planned for the night – but the accoutrements were tucked neatly under their gowns: bubbles, horns, noisemakers, and more!

Following the faculty and staff, the music, provided live by members of the Bakersfield College band and orchestra, switched to “Pomp and Circumstance,” which is the traditional commencement march for colleges and universities. Students came streaming into Memorial Stadium to the shouts and cheers of family and friends, before taking their seats and staring up into the crowd in awe and wonder.

After some opening preliminaries, including the presentation of the American and California flags by a huge contingent of Boy Scouts, we heard from our resident anthem singer, Dr. John Gerhold, who sang a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” which brought tears to my eyes.

The night’s honored speakers followed Dr. Gerhold, which included Kern Community College District Board of Trustees member Pauline Larwood, Kern Community College District Associate Vice Chancellor Dr. Michele Bresso, Vice President of the Academic Senate Michael Korcok, and Bakersfield College Student Government Association President and member of the class of 2013 Danitza Romo.

As I spent the next hour or so congratulating each and every student and presenting them their diplomas, I am reminded of the transformative power of education. Each student had their own hopes, their own dreams, and on commencement night, I was part of it.

Faculty and Staff Celebrate the Class of 2013

Faculty and staff form a tunnel to celebrate the class of 2013!

Remember those hidden treasures our faculty and staff snuck in? They came out and were enthusiastically used as students started receiving their diplomas. Each student walks a route from their chair, to the announcement area, to me, then through the cadre of faculty and staff who are ready to give high-fives, hugs, and make as much noise as possible for their students. The celebratory atmosphere was very, very energizing.

We kept it up until every last diploma was presented. As we finished the night, the faculty and staff created a tunnel to the edge of the stadium, and every graduate walked through the rows of celebratory cheers and hugs.

We attempted a new routine in handing out diplomas with two lines rather than one and shortened the duration of the event by 30 minutes which was very well received by all.

Check out Tom Moran’s commencement collection which is at http://tinyurl.com/ca3s9lc

From one of our graduates

99th commencement 2013 Tom Moran

99th Commencement


Here is an email from Annette Russ, one of our students from the 99th graduating class:

Sent: Monday, May 13, 2013 4:10 PM
To: Amber Chiang
Subject: Graduation Spring 2013

Hello Ms. Chiang,

I just wanted to give the college a huge shout out for last Friday’s graduation. I graduated from a college in northern California about 27 years ago, and have gone back to further my education. I was one of the fortunate graduates of the 99 TH graduating class and I must say it was amazing. I felt so proud of Bakersfield college in how they preform their ceremony.  The instructors who were giving high fives and hugs as we walked out was truly the best part.  I really felt that they cared for me, even though many did not know me. I felt they all were proud of us and that is awesome.

Thanks again for a great ceremony.


Annette Russ


The photo is from Tom Moran’s commencement collection which is at http://tinyurl.com/ca3s9lc