Fist bumps replaced handshakes, but the graduates’ smiles were as bright as the sunshine Dec. 11, 2021, as Fresno Pacific University returned to in-person commencement ceremonies.
This graduation was also a reunion of sorts as not only members of the Fall 2021 class, but the Spring 2021, Fall 2020 and Spring 2020 classes—all of whom had virtual graduations thanks to COVID-19—shared the chance to cross the stage at the Paul Paul Theatre on the Fresno Fair Grounds.
The first ceremony, at 9 a.m., was for graduates from the School of Business; School of Humanities, Religion & Social Sciences; and Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. Graduates from the School of Education and the School of Natural Sciences were celebrated at 2 p.m. Signed up to participate were 491 Fall 2021 graduates and 285 graduates from the previous classes. More than 7,000 family and friends watched from the stands.
Featured speaker for both ceremonies was Rebecca Hernandez, associate provost and chief diversity officer at George Fox University. She oversees diversity planning and implementation, faculty and campus leadership development and the Office for Local and Global Engagement, Center for Peace and Justice and Office of Learning Support Services.
Using the example of her own family—farm workers in South Texas who, through her father’s childhood love of music, found a meaningful relationship with God in a Foursquare Church and now include “preachers, teachers and evangelists for God”—Hernandez talked about resilience, or capacidad.
Resilience is the ability to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens, or to face adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.
“We have all felt that in our lives, in fact just the last couple of years,” she said. “You’re here on graduation day, having completed your course of study. That was stressful, you adapted and succeeded.”
Hernandez listed seven components of resilience: competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control.
In closing, Hernandez encouraged graduates to pray for faith, for grace and for the ability to change that part of the world they inhabit and the people in their sphere.
“The seven components, skills that reflect God, are needed in the world; they are needed by the people around you, the people you work with, the people you serve and teach and heal,” she said. “You can be an origin story for your family, for your community. As you go out today with your diploma in hand, think about what story God is creating in you.”
Also presenting were President Joseph Jones; Joshua Wilson, chair of the FPU Board of Trustees; and Gayle Copeland, provost/senior vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer. University faculty and ensembles provided music. All graduates, staff and faculty were required to wear a mask, and audience members were encouraged to do so. Graduates were able to remove their mask just prior to walking across the stage.
FPU offers traditional undergraduate programs at its main campus in Southeast Fresno, also the site of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. The university also provides bachelor’s degree completion and master’s degree programs at regional campuses in North Fresno, Visalia, Bakersfield and Merced, as well as a variety of online options.