USC holds 139th Commencement

Image of graduates taking pictures and smiling.
The graduating class gathered in Alumni Park for their commencement ceremony on May 13. All ceremonies were live streamed using the platform 6Connex. (Melisa Cabello Cuahutle | Daily Trojan)

Alumni Park came alive and bustled with excitement May 13 for the Class of 2022’s Commencement ceremony. Graduating students gathered to celebrate their accomplishments and send off their USC careers with a flourish, sitting among peers, faculty members and proud family members and friends. 

USC’s 139th Commencement ceremony, along with the individual schools’ satellite ceremonies, was live streamed via 6Connex, an online platform for virtual events. The Trojan Marching Band, conducted by director Jacob Vogel, performed at the event, playing the fanfare, processional and recessional, filling the park with school spirit.

Raivyn Hearne, a U.S. army veteran and graduate majoring in popular music performance, sang the American national anthem, which was followed by the Invocation speech given by Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni. During the Invocation, all attendees were encouraged to pay respect and acknowledge the native land of the Tongva people and other Indigenious communities the University is situated on. 

Soni then talked about the birth of the cosmos and how the elements that build up human life came from exploded stars. We are all celestial beings, he said, and possess creative power from the universe.

“May you recognize once again that you are not isolated beings but deeply connected in miracle and in mystery to this universe, to this University and to each other, and may we all say together, amen,” Soni said to round off his address. 

President Carol Folt gave a President’s welcome speech to congratulate the Class of 2022, during which she spoke about the unique circumstances the coronavirus pandemic brought about, acknowledging the losses students might have experienced over the course of the pandemic, and mentioned the various ways Trojans pitched in to help in a time of need. She also discussed sustainability and environmental responsibility, and offered advice to the graduates.

“Your USC education and the wonderful relationships you have formed here are very precious, and they will serve you brilliantly,” Folt said. “You’re not afraid of facing society’s challenges. I have seen you embrace them with confidence and with optimism and your faculty, your staff, your family, your friends — they all know you. They know that you have the tools. They know that you have the passion. You have the ability and the commitment to dive right in and to make a difference.”

Adam Karelin delivered the valedictory speech, in which he thanked his classmates, his mentors and professors, his mom, his grandparents and his partner. Karelin then shared a poem that addressed the physical and emotional toll of Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine, and the glimmer of hope at the end of the destruction. Karelin said he knew he wanted to speak about the war in his speech, but as he wrote, he saw he was writing a poem, so he ran with it.

“He didn’t know why the dark blue sky had bled from yellow into red, but he knew winter must always yield to spring sunflowers in the field,” Karelin said, reciting the final words of the composition. “Thank you, and may we all find the strength to face evil with light.”

Allyson Felix speaking at commencement behind podium.
Allyson Felix, a USC alumna and five-time Olympian, delivered the Commencement address for the 2022 graduating class. (Melisa Cabello Cuahutle | Daily Trojan)

During her commencement address, Allyson Felix, an alumna and five-time Olympian, spoke about her career and lessons she’s learned from her experiences, hoping they would resonate with the graduating class. Now retired, Felix is the most decorated track athlete in the U.S., holding 11 Olympic medals. Felix addressed and called for action on causes important to her, such as closing the gender pay gap and raising awareness about maternal health. In her speech, she described the experience she had with Nike while pregnant, when the company offered her a 70% pay cut from her previous contract, and how she used her voice and was able to convince Nike to change its maternity policy. 

“Remember, your voice has power, and you have to use your voice, even if it shakes,” Felix said. “There are times when you’ll ask for change and there are times when you’ll create it. Your life has purpose, so it’s important to live a life of purpose. And I cannot wait to see the impact that you’ll all have on this world.”

Salutorian Shreya Daniel standing and cheering next to valedictorian Adam Karelin who's sitting
Salutatorian Shreya Daniel was recognized alongside salutorian Andrew Binder and valedictorian Adam Karelin. (Melisa Cabello Cuahutle | Daily Trojan)

Felix was presented the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by the University. 

Karan Rami, a graduate who majored in business administration, said he found the speakers to be “funny and personable,” and their speeches relatable to his experience and his future. For Rami, Commencement was a day during which he reminisced on memories of his college days and even met a few people while standing in line to walk across the lectern. 

“It feels great [to have graduated], but also it’s bittersweet. I mean, I love USC,” Rami said. “Now it feels like I don’t have a reason to come back.”

Mahima Varanasi, who graduated with a degree in industrial and systems engineering, said the address from Felix, who Varanasi called a “total badass,” was her favorite part of the ceremony. Standing among her friends and classmates, all donning caps, gowns and sashes, Varanasi said the reality of the fact that she’s graduating truly hit her.

“Commencement was a lot of pomp and circumstance,” Varanasi said. “After the four years this class has had, I think a lot of pomp and circumstance is deserved. I think we all worked really hard and we didn’t know what was going to happen, but the hard work paid off and I think this is the only celebration worth all of our hard work.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the commencement date as May 11 instead of May 13. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.