2021 CDSS Commencement Ceremonies Like No Others, Ending a Year Like No Other

May 26, 2021

In the wake of the 2019-20 school year, which ended with a pandemic-inflicted ban on graduations, UC Berkeley is allowing this year’s graduates to cap the year in much the same way they experienced it -- online.

This year’s ceremonies were a contrast from a year ago when all commencements were canceled. In addition to their online festivities, students were invited to participate in a live, in-person walk across the Greek Theater stage -- socially distanced and masked -- in a live streaming event May 16-21

Each of the campus entities comprising the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) will mark the occasion a bit differently. The celebrations began on Saturday, May 15, the awarding of Bachelor’s degrees in Data Science, the largest of the groups, and concluded with Statistics on Friday, May 21. Here is a recap of the events:

2021 - Data Science Virtual Commencement

Data Science Undergraduate Studies

For the 668 students who received their Data Science bachelor’s degrees on Saturday, May 15, it was a graduation day like no other, coming on the heels of an academic year like no other. Students celebrated their graduation via the program’s first-ever virtual commencement premiering on YouTube

The ceremony featured commencement speakers, student and faculty awards, and a surprise appearance by Cal mascot Oski the Bear.

“Class of 2021, you have been on quite a ride,” said Jennifer Chayes, Associate Provost for the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS), in her remarks to the graduating class. “We’re now seeing daylight and it’s a testament to your and our collective ingenuity, resilience, grit, and heart as human beings.

“We need people like you with the heart and the skills to understand how to leverage data science for the good of humanity and the planet,” Chayes said.

Featured speakers included Giorgia Lupi, an information designer who created the Dear Data project with Stefanie Posavec, swapping hand-drawn data postcards with each other for a year.

Michael Jordan, the Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and the Department of Statistics, reassured the parents of graduates, emphasizing the students’ “fantastic decision” to major in data science and how well positioned they are to be leaders in whatever career they pursue. 

The final speaker was John DeNero, an Associate Teaching Professor in EECS who was recently announced as new Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies for CDSS. Looking a bit confused, DeNero wondered if he was on the right Zoom call as he was in his final office hours of the semester and no students were there. Suddenly, Berkeley mascot Oski the Bear  logged in and DeNero realized that the bear was in his class and the one ungraded final exam -- unsigned but marked with a big blue paw print -- was Oski’s. 

Faculty Director of Pedagogy Ani Adhikari presented awards recognizing student excellence. Outstanding Teaching Awards for graduate student instructors were given to Kunal Agarwal, Mihaela Curmei, Samantha Hing, Anna Nguyen, Ryan Roggenkemper, and Ishaan Srivastava.

Awards for Outstanding Data Science Undergraduates, recognizing performance in the major, research, and contributions to the data science community at Berkeley, were given to Emma Besier, Emily Hsiao, Adalie Palma, Ashley Quiterio, and Jack Stehn.

Four other graduate students were honored with an Extraordinary Teaching in Extraordinary Times Award for their innovative work to keep students engaged while learning remotely during the pandemic. Philippe Boileau, Anna Nguyen, Suraj Rampure and Allen Shen were recognized for their efforts to adapt the Data 8 and Data 100 courses they taught to a combined 800 students during the Summer 2020 semester.

The program concluded with the announcement of EECS Professor Emeritus David Culler receiving the 2021 Berkeley Citation Award, one of the highest honors the campus can bestow. 

Read more about the DSUS commencement.

Virtual Commencement, May 2021 — Berkeley School of Information

School of Information (I School)

On Sunday, May 16, the School of Information celebrated 371 graduates. This marked the second time commencement was delivered online, including a keynote address and remarks from faculty leadership, head graduate advisors, and student leaders.

“You weathered a global economic meltdown in 2008, a decade of social tensions and upheavals, and a multiyear global pandemic, and yet you forced society to begin the long journey of addressing social, economic, and environmental injustices, all the while, completing your studies and taking care of your friends, families, and communities,” Associate Dean and Head of School Hany Farid told the graduates. “You will surely be remembered for your resilience in the face of overwhelming and at times impossible challenges,” he continued. “I’m incredibly proud to call you a graduate of the School of Information.”

The graduates included 51 Master of Information in Management and Systems (MIMS) students, 255 Master of Information and Data Science program (MIDS), students (including 86 from Summer 2020, 82 from Fall 2020, and 87 from Spring 2021), 21 5th Year MIDS students, 43 Master of Information and Cybersecurity program (MICS) students (including 11 from Summer 2020, 10 from Fall 2020, and 22 from Spring 2021), and one Ph.D. student.

Keynote speaker Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, also cited the resilience of this graduating class and pointed out how it will provide a strong foundation for whatever else life throws their way. 

“Ultimately in life, we do need to make judgments,” Smith said. “But the thing I love about that phrase is that the judgments we reach will always be better if we start, not by reaching conclusions, but by being curious.

“Be curious, not judgmental, as you think about how technology and what you have learned will connect with everything that’s happening. And make a contribution to something that’s bigger than yourself,” Smith said in his recorded address.

Associate Professor Kimiko Ryokai and Adjunct Professors Alex Hughes, and Chris Hoofnagle announced Final Project and Capstone Award winners, and graduates from each program recognized outstanding faculty and students as voted by students. Professor Coye Cheshire recognized the achievement of Ph.D. program graduate Nick Doty, also a MIMS alumnus, who studied privacy and security as values in internet standards as his doctoral dissertation.

Read more about the School of Information commencement.

UC Berkeley Statistics 2021 Virtual Commencement

Statistics Department

The Statistics Department held its online graduation on Friday, May 21, honoring graduates who received their doctorates, master’s and bachelor’s degrees and announcing the recipients of department academic awards. For the 2020-21 school year, Statistics awarded 162 Bachelor’s degrees, 43 Master’s and eight Ph.D.s.

Statistics Department Chair and Professor Sandrine Dudoit opened the ceremony by saying that when she recorded her comments for last year’s graduating class, she never expected the pandemic to force her to do the same a year later.

“You have overcome more than a year of obstacles in and outside of the classroom to achieve this important milestone,” Dudoit said. “In today’s data-intensive world, your training in statistics is more relevant than ever.

“Statistics is the backbone of epidemiological studies of infectious diseases and of the clinical trials that have led to the COVID vaccines,” Dudoit said. “So go use your skills to learn from data, to promote the ethical use of data and algorithms for analyzing data and to debunk misinformation.”

As each class was announced, students receiving special awards were highlighted:

  • The Erich Lehmann Award for an outstanding Ph.D. dissertation in theoretical statistics was given to Aurélien Bibaut, who earned his doctorate in biostatistics.

  • The Evelyn Fix Prize presented to the student(s) showing the greatest promise in statistical research, with preference given for applications to biology and problems of health, was awarded to Xiao Li.

  • The Department Citation, for excellence in theory and application of statistics and outstanding performance in the master’s program, was given to Ryan Roggenkemper.

  • The Elizabeth Scott Memorial Award, given to a student showing the greatest promise in statistical research, was presented to master’s graduate Joshua Hug.

  • Among students receiving their bachelor’s degrees, the Department Citation recognizing distinguished undergraduate achievement in statistics was awarded to Yanwei (Jamarcus) Liu. 

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

The College of Engineering, including EECS, held commencement ceremonies on Thursday, May 20.

The Baccalaureate ceremony began at 10 a.m. with Andrew T. Yang as the keynote speaker. Yang, who earned his Bachelor’s degree in EECS in 1983, is a venture investor and serial entrepreneur with a background in technology research, product development and business scaling.Yang was co-founder, chief executive officer, and chairman of Apache Design Solutions, which was acquired in 2011 by ANSYS Inc., of which Yang is now  vice president and general manager.

Andrew T. Yang

The ceremony honoring Master’s degree recipients started at 12 p.m. The keynote address was given by Kristin Johnsen, who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department from Berkeley in 1988. Johnsen currently holds board and advisor roles for several organizations including Tech Data, the Berkeley Engineering Advisory Board and Access Information Management and previously with Microsoft, McKinsey & Co., and various startups.

Kristin Johnsen

Doctoral degrees were awarded beginning at 2 p.m. The keynote speaker was Valerie Taylor, who earned her Ph.D. from EECS in 1991. Taylor is director of the Mathematics and Computer Science Division and a Distinguished Fellow at Argonne National Laboratory, where she researches high-performance computing.

Valerie Taylor

An in-person graduation ceremony for the College of Engineering will be held at a future date when it is safe to do so. The dates of the ceremonies will depend on public health guidelines, venue availability, and other factors.