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Announcing Our 2019 Commencement Speakers

April 4, 2019

Dear Campus Community,

We are excited to announce that two dynamic, accomplished California leaders will inspire our graduating students and their families and friends at UC Merced’s 14th commencement ceremonies in May.

First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom will address candidates from the School of Natural Sciences and the School of Engineering on Saturday, May 18, and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis will speak to the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts ceremony on Sunday, May 19.

Ms. Siebel Newsom and her husband, Gov. Gavin Newsom, visited campus in October and had a very impactful discussion with several of our students. A California native, Ms. Siebel Newsom is a documentary filmmaker, actress and advocate. She founded the nonprofit organization The Representation Project, which inspires individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting gender stereotypes and norms.

Ms. Siebel Newsom graduated with honors from Stanford University and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Among other projects, she wrote, directed and produced the award-winning documentary “Miss Representation,” which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and examines misrepresentations of women by the media. Ms. Siebel Newsom is currently working on another film, “The Great American Lie.”

This commencement address will be Ms. Siebel Newsom’s first since becoming the First Partner, and it comes 10 years after another first — First Lady Michelle Obama gave her first commencement address at UC Merced, honoring the university’s first graduating class in 2009.

Lt. Gov. Kounalakis, the state’s first female lieutenant governor, visited the university in August as part of a statewide tour. Before assuming her current position, she served as the U.S. Ambassador for Hungary under President Obama from 2010-2013. Born in Sacramento, she received her MBA from UC Berkeley and holds a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College. Lt. Gov. Kounalakis also holds an honorary Doctorate of Laws from American College of Greece.

She began her political career as a staff member for the California Democratic Party in 1992. She also spent 18 years with her family business, AKT Development, rising to president of the company as she helped deliver housing for middle-class families in Sacramento.

During their visits to UC Merced, both speakers expressed their excitement for our growth as a campus and our profound influence on the city of Merced, the Central Valley and the state.

I know all of us — and especially our graduating class of future leaders — will enjoy hearing Ms. Siebel Newsom and Lt. Gov. Kounalakis share their personal experiences and insights.


E. Edw. Klotzbier

Vice Chancellor