UMass Boston

Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll Tells UMass Boston Grads: You Are Our State’s Future

05/28/2024| Crystal Valencia

University confers degrees to 2,525 undergraduates at harborside ceremony

Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll speaks at commencement.
Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll speaks at UMass Boston's undergraduate commencement ceremony.
Image By: Javier Rivas, Haley Abram, Nick Brady, and Jack Macmullin

“Massachusetts needs you. Every single one of you.”

Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll applauded UMass Boston graduates for their work in addressing some of our most challenging issues of today – from alternative sustainable energy and equitable education to ethical applications of AI and the promotion of wellness and health for all. And she appealed to graduates to keep their expertise and skills in Massachusetts as the university celebrated its 56th undergraduate commencement on its waterfront campus Thursday morning.

“Your education at UMass Boston has prepared you for the real world, more than you know. … All this to say – YOU are our state’s future,” Driscoll said in her remarks. “We need all of you to continue to contribute to the fabric of our state because we cannot afford to lose your vibrancy, your skill, your individualism.”

This year’s graduates hail from more than 96 countries around the world, and speak more than 70 different languages. Nearly 60 percent of UMass Boston students are first-generation college students.

Watch UMass Boston's 2024 commencement ceremony.

“I look out at all of you, and I see something wonderful. I see our diversity. I see our talent. I see our resilience,” Driscoll said. “I see our future, and it is a bright one.”

Undergrads smiling at commencement

This year, UMass Boston conferred 3,767 degrees (2,525 undergraduate; 1,242 graduate). The university held two commencements over two days— with a graduate ceremony taking place on Wednesday, May 22. The university also hosted a doctoral hooding ceremony that morning.

Chancellor Praises Class of 2024’s ‘Indomitable Spirit’

Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco presided at the ceremony, applauding the remarkable achievements of this year’s graduating class, who experienced the impacts of the COVID pandemic and a renewed Social Justice Movement in this country. 

What a ride it has been. In all my years, I have never witnessed a group of students with more fortitude, more gumption, more perseverance, more ganas, than all of you who sit before us today,” he said. “Members of the UMass Boston Class of 2024, you inspire us!” 

He spoke of the unique bond he has with this class. Many in the crowd were the first students he met at UMass Boston when he became chancellor in September 2020.

Graduates at 2024 commencement by the water
“What you’ve overcome to get here today reflects a deep love of learning, a profound sense of your agency, and the indomitable spirit of the ‘si se puede’ – yes, I can. And make no mistake, we’ve learned more in the 2020s than we expected we ever would,” he said. “I reflect on these moments every day and consider the present moment. Standing here today, looking out at you, I am filled with hope for our future.”

Student Speaker Shares Her Journey, Tells Classmates to Defy Expectations

Rosita Beatriz Ramirez Ventura, who received the John F. Kennedy Award for Academic Excellence, spoke of her journey from Guatemala to the United States as a teen.

JFK winner Rosita Ramirez with the chancellor and provost
While she was born in the U.S. to two undocumented immigrants who risked their lives crossing borders to offer her a better future, Ventura said her family feared deportation and moved back to Guatemala when she was seven. Her father, who planned to join them shortly after, vanished, and she later learned he was murdered. Her family quickly fell into debt, struggling to even afford basic necessities, which forced her to return to the U.S. by herself.

“When I came to this country, I did not know a single word in English. Among many things, I was told that people like me couldn’t pursue higher education. Instead, I was encouraged to take on a low-skilled job,” Ventura said. “With no blueprint to follow, I made it my goal to prove everyone wrong.”

JFK winner Rosita Ramirez's mother cheering in the crowd

The crowd roared in applause for Ventura’s mother, Siomara.

“I know that I owe the honor of being the JFK award winner to all of those who have made such an indelible impression in my life but this is the first time she is ever attending a college graduation and this award is as much my own as it is hers,” Ventura said of her mother.

Ventura, who graduated with a degree in biochemistry, will continue her research while applying to MD/PhD dual degree programs in pursuit of becoming a physician scientist. She encouraged her fellow graduates to own their stories, and not be defined by statistics.

Read more about Rosita Beatriz Ramirez Ventura.

“As the child of immigrants, there was a 40 percent chance I would drop out of college. But what if I tell you that my story is no longer defined by the statistics,” she said. “Today, people can see that despite having gone through multiple ESL programs, I am still speaking at commencement, in English. I want my presence here today to serve as proof and stand as a symbol of inspiration for people like me, who can hear this speech and see themselves in the position that I am in.”

She urged her peers to not only own their stories, but to be the ones that tell them too.

“With our stories, we can stop normalizing and perpetuating stereotypes amongst ourselves,” she said. “Today is the end of a new beginning, the world awaits us, and I have no doubt that we will continue to defy expectations, shatter barriers, and make our mark on history. The world has no idea what Beacons can do.”

Aerial of undergrad commencement