May 2, 2023 – Students in CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI)’s Class of 2023 will graduate in one of four in-person ceremonies being held on May 20 and 21 at the South Quad of the campus.

Each academic program is assigned to either the morning or afternoon ceremony on Saturday or Sunday, with ceremonies being held at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. Out of 2,600 students eligible to graduate, 1,170 have indicated they are going to participate in commencement ceremonies, and each graduate is encouraged to bring guests to share in the celebration.

CSUCI Senior Event Specialist Lisa Racine expects the South Quad to be filled with 5,000 to 6,000 people for each of the four ceremonies. About 4,000 to 5,000 of those will be friends and family.

“This tells us the student support systems are back.”  Racine said.

In addition, participation in commencement is almost back up to pre-pandemic levels.

“We had about 60% participation in commencement during the pandemic compared with 71% before the pandemic,” she said. “This year we’re back up to 68% of graduating students opting to participate in commencement.”

The celebration of the 2023 graduates begins the week leading up to commencement with eight different affinity celebrations. Affinity groups are students who share interests, issues, and a common bond or background, and offer support for one another.

For example, there is a Black Student Stoling ceremony, a Lavender Stoling Ceremony to honor the LGBTQ community, and an Undocumented Students Stoling Ceremony. There is the Veterans Medallion Ceremony and Sí Se Pudo, for Latina/o students, which is a bilingual event to honor friends and family who have helped graduating students on their journey.

Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Student Government President Ilien Tolteca will be one of four student speakers during the commencement ceremonies. Tolteca plans to underscore the importance of recognizing the varied journeys that CSUCI students take.

Tolteca, a double major in Chicana/o Studies and Studio Art who plans to mentor young children in youth art programs after graduating, took the traditional route to college, growing up in Oxnard and going directly to CSUCI after high school. But Tolteca wants to honor non-traditional students such as transfer students, those who had gaps in their education or are returning to college to learn new skills, or anyone whose college journey has not been a straight line.

“I am a first generation, queer student going into a nontraditional career,” Tolteca said. “No matter how long your college journey is, or how much you have struggled, that journey needs to be recognized. Because we are in institutions that aren’t necessarily built for us, so no matter what form our college journey takes, it’s worth recognizing.”

Student speakers this year were not selected based on academics or leadership but were asked to apply by submitting an essay describing the speech they would like to give. One speaker’s spot is reserved for the student government president, but the other three were chosen based on the strength of the stories they had to tell.

“From the affinity gatherings to the selection of Commencement student speakers with unique and powerful stories, this year’s celebrations will highlight the diverse paths our graduates have taken to this day. We could not be prouder of their many accomplishments,” said President Richard Yao.

One of the chosen speakers, Psychology major Spooner Greenbird, will open her speech by sharing the first time she walked on the CSUCI grounds long ago, when it was Camarillo State Hospital.

“My mother was a psychiatric inpatient at Camarillo State Hospital and my initial visit here was as a very young girl who just wanted to see her mom but couldn’t due to my age,” Spooner said.

So, her dad parked his van under a window at Bell Tower and held Greenbird up while her mother ran to the women’s restroom and stood on the bathroom sink so she could see her daughter.

“We saw each other only briefly between the bars of the tiny restroom window before security saw us and made us leave,” Greenbird said. “But that moment was unforgettable.”

Episodes of schizophrenia disrupted her teaching career, but Greenbird’s mother taught her daughter a love of learning and of helping others.

“When I lost her to cancer, it forever broke a part of my heart,” Greenbird said. “However, one of her dying wishes was ‘Get that degree, Sunshine!’”

And at 9 a.m. on May 20, during the very first of the four ceremonies, Greenbird will walk on the same grounds where she stood on tiptoe for a glimpse of her mother more than 25 years ago.

“I come back to the place that was once her hospital and am getting a degree in psychology to help other people who are like my mother,” Greenbird said. “The day after I graduate, I’m going to get a ‘CSUCI Proud parent’ sticker and stick it on her tombstone.’”

For more on CSUCI Commencement, visit:

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