Chancellor Carol Christ sworn in at 2017 winter commencement

UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small/Courtesy

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Family, friends, alumni and faculty gathered in one space for two occasions Sunday morning: to watch students graduate from UC Berkeley and to witness Carol Christ, the first female chancellor of UC Berkeley, being sworn in.

The 2017 winter commencement honored 600 graduates in Haas Pavilion and featured speeches from UC President Janet Napolitano, the newly installed Christ and UC Regent George Kieffer. The commencement also included a poetry reading from Kevis Goodman, associate professor of English, and a performance of “Hail to California” by the Cal Jazz Choir.

Christ was officially installed during the investiture ceremony by Napolitano, who said Christ “cares deeply about students” and has displayed a passion about the value of creating and sharing knowledge. As the first female chancellor in UC Berkeley’s 149-year history, Christ’s address was marked with an acknowledgement of the issues the campus faces, but its tone remained hopeful.

“(Students) continue to question the status quo, (to) learn and explore,” Christ said during the speech. “Berkeley installs in its students a capacity to re-evaluate and reorient themselves.”

While Christ was named to the position in March and began as chancellor in July, she could not confer degrees until her installation, moments before hundreds of doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s students entered the stage to receive their diplomas.

Christ said during her speech that she had been thinking a lot about the month of January, which is named after the god of beginnings and transitions. It is portrayed with two faces, one looking back and one looking forward, much like the graduates in the room, said Christ.

“Berkeley reimagines the world,” Christ said. “It is a powerful pathway to upward mobility; it continuously raises the bar of the possible for humanity.”

One of the campus’s core values — equity and inclusion — means equity of experience, Christ continued. She spoke about the challenges some students face with access and opportunity, the dearth of state funding and the campus’s budget deficit, and she named insufficient student housing as the greatest threat UC Berkeley students face. She added that the campus will evolve and improve through self-examination.

Angela Glover Blackwell, a UC Berkeley School of Law alumna, was also honored during the ceremony with the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award. Blackwell was recognized for her contributions to economic and social equity through public policy reform.

UC Berkeley is more than just a place across from the Golden Gate Bridge, but one inside the hearts and minds of the students here, Christ said during her address.

“When we say ‘Go Bears,’ we are often thinking of our sports teams,” Christ said. “But ‘Go Bears’ means so much more than that. It means go faculty, go alumni (and) go graduates.”

Ani Vahradyan is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anivahrad.