April 23, 2021

Dear Graduating Students and Members of Our UC Santa Barbara Community,

Of all our campus traditions, the one we most look forward to celebrating is our annual Commencement. It is a meaningful opportunity for us to recognize the achievements and success of our graduating students. We know how special this moment is for you, and also for your parents, your guardians, and your families, as well as our faculty and staff – for all of us.

You have shared with us that Commencement is an important rite of passage, the culmination of everything you’ve done and who you’ve become during your time with us. We wholeheartedly agree. Personally congratulating and shaking the hand of each graduate who crosses the stage is among my greatest joys. Although current public health orders for Santa Barbara County place restrictions on large public gatherings, so that we are unable to host our traditional ceremonies, we want to recognize all you have accomplished during your time at UC Santa Barbara. In this spirit, we will hold a year-end celebration with an extraordinary guest speaker and an in-person graduation processional, to honor you and this long-awaited milestone in your lives.

We are especially honored and delighted to announce that Oprah Winfrey will be the keynote graduation speaker for our special live-streamed online Commencement ceremony. My wife, Dilling, and I spoke with her and invited her to deliver a message of inspiration in honor of our graduating class, and she graciously accepted. Internationally renowned not only for her great accomplishments, but also for her wisdom, her generosity of spirit, and her gift of inspiration, Ms. Winfrey will address our graduates on Saturday, June 12, 2021, to begin a day of multiple virtual or small in-person celebrations arranged by our schools, academic divisions, and departments, as allowed by public health orders. Directions on how to sign up for personalized graduation slides to be included in the Saturday virtual event will be provided directly to eligible students.

In addition, we invite all of our graduating students to participate in-person in our 2021 Grad Walk, which will take place during the week of June 7. Following consultation with our student leaders, academic leaders, and campus medical experts, we have developed an in-person event that offers a semblance of the pomp and circumstance of our typical Commencement. Our Grad Walk will allow our graduating students to take part in a graduation processional that includes having your names announced as you cross a stage, and photographs with our campus lagoon as the backdrop. The event will be live-streamed so parents, guardians, families, and friends can share in the celebration, virtually. We warmly invite our Class of 2020 graduates, who did not have an in-person experience last year, to join in our Grad Walk as well. More information on how to reserve your Grad Walk time and other safety protocols will be forthcoming, and will also be posted on our Commencement website.

We had hoped the improved situation in Santa Barbara County would make it possible for us to come together as a campus community this June, perhaps even joined by our friends and families. Though that is not the case, it does not diminish our pride in the accomplishments of our graduates and our excitement for the life adventures that await you. We look forward to future opportunities to welcome you back to campus as the newest members of our alumni community.

The incredible resilience, flexibility, and perseverance you have demonstrated during these unprecedented times are an inspiration to all of us who have shared your journey at UC Santa Barbara. These inner resources will serve you well as you embark on life’s next chapter. Dilling and I are in awe of your unwavering dedication, your passion, and your extraordinary achievements. You are forever part of our UC Santa Barbara family. 


Henry T. Yang