Commencement is back at CSUDH!
Although socially distanced and in fewer numbers than a typical year, the Toro Nation will come together for the first time after more than a year of virtual education to celebrate both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 during in-person Commencement ceremonies May 24-26.
Seven ceremonies in total will take place in the Tennis Stadium at Dignity Health Sports Park over the three days. With restricted stadium seating, students will sit in the stands this year with their two guests, instead of on the stadium floor. Each ceremony will also be live streamed so that other family and friends can celebrate remotely.
Even with the changes needed to comply with public health guidelines, the ceremonies will include plenty of pomp and circumstance normally associated with commencement, including individually recognizing each student in attendance, an honorary doctorate presentation, and commencement addresses.
Seven accomplished keynote speakers will join the festivities to share their paths to success and words of encouragement to graduates. They represent the diversity of professional careers that a college degree makes possible, whether that is running a sound stage for “The Simpsons,” ensuring health and safety at this year’s Super Bowl, meeting with staff at one of 18 privately-owned McDonald’s Restaurants, performing life-saving surgeries, or supporting legislation on the chamber floor of the California Senate.
Among the speakers will be Sallyanne Payton, who will be bestowed a California State University Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Payton is receiving the honorary doctorate for her trailblazing career in law and government, and support of arts and education.
CSUDH Commencement Speakers
Sallyanne Payton, (Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, 2021). Keynote address: May 26 at 10 a.m.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Payton earned her B.A. and LL.B. degrees from Stanford University in 1964 and 1968, respectively, becoming the first African American to graduate from Stanford School of Law.
Payton was appointed staff assistant to President Nixon in the White House Domestic Council, serving from 1971 to 1973, and then as chief counsel for the Urban Mass Transportation Administration in the Department of Transportation until 1976. During the Clinton presidency, she was appointed as an adviser for the Clinton Health Care Reform Task Force, which laid the groundwork for the Affordable Care Act years later.
In 1976, Payton became the second female faculty member at University of Michigan (UM) Law School. In 2008, she was appointed the prestigious title of William W. Cook Professor of Law. Two years later, she was elected to the National Academy of Social Insurance, and a Senior Fellow of the Administrative Conference of the United States. Payton officially retired from UM in 2013.
Payton is one of the founders of CSUDH’s African Diaspora Sacred Music and Musicians program, and the Georgia and Nolan Payton Archive of Sacred Music. Her lifetime goal is to preserve and revive Negro Spirituals, a type of religious folk song strongly associated with slaves of African descent in the American South.
Steven Bradford (B.A., Political Science, 1985), California State Senator, 35th District. Keynote address: May 25 at 3 p.m.
Steven Bradford is the current representative of the 35th District of the California State Senate. He previously represented the states 51st and 62nd Assembly Districts, and made history as the first African American elected to the Gardena City Council. An avid supporter of conservation efforts, Bradford previously served as the solid waste director for the City of Compton, where he established the city’s first curbside recycling program, and was program director for the Los Angeles Conservation Corps. While in the state assembly, he authored legislation to promote renewable and clean energy as chair of the Committee on Utilities and Commerce. Bradford currently serves on CSUDH’s Mervyn M. Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute.
Dominique Braud (B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies, 1997), co-producer of “The Simpsons,” and owner of Honeywater Entertainment. Keynote address: May 24 at 1:30 p.m.
Braud is co-producer of “The Simpsons,” the longest-running scripted prime-time television series in history, and this year marks her 28th year on the animated series. While continuing her role with “The Simpsons,” Braud also serves as an executive producer for an animated series in development with Adult Swim, and is beginning production on a documentary highlighting the black boarding school in Compton that she attended during her youth. Through her consulting company, Honeywater Entertainment, Braud is currently working on developing additional animated shows.
Linda DeYampert (B.S., Business Administration, 1999), senior manager, Studio Environmental Health and Safety for the National Football League (NFL). Keynote address: May 24 at 9 a.m.
Most recently in her role at the NFL, DeYampert has been responsible for all COVID-19 testing procedures for NFL employees and large events such as the Super Bowl. She also serves as the co-chair for the Employee Resource Group BEN (Black Engagement Network), as well as the director of membership for Black Sports Professionals.
Previously, DeYampert served as the President of the National Black MBA Association (Los Angeles Chapter) for two terms and Board Member of WISE LA (Women in Sports and Events). She was the winner of the Los Angeles Business Journal’s 2015 Women Making a Difference Award, and was the 2015 California Multicultural Leadership Award recipient. In 2017, DeYampert won the Woman of Diversity Award from the Los Angeles Lakers (Comerica Bank).
Gracie Ann Dinkins (B.A., Chemistry, 1987), a trauma and acute care surgeon. Keynote address: May 25 at 10 a.m.
Dinkins is a trauma and acute care surgeon who currently holds positions with faculty responsibilities at two Southern California hospitals. She serves as attending surgeon and teaching faculty at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, and as attending surgeon at Watts’ Martin Luther King Community Hospital. Dinkins has led multiple international surgical missions in Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia. She is chair of the Board of Directors of Hilltop Schools in Monrovia, Liberia, and CEO of the Kutoa Afrika Foundation, which works to create safe spaces at Liberian schools for students at risk for abuse or trauma.
Dinkins also had a successful career as an Olympic athlete, representing Liberia at the 1984, 2000, and 2004 Olympic Games, and still holds the Liberian national records for the 100 and 400 meters. She founded the Liberian International Athletic Foundation to support Liberian athletes.
Nicole Enearu, owner/operator of McDonald’s Restaurants. Keynote address: May 26 at 3 p.m.
Enearu operates 18 Los Angeles-area McDonald’s Restaurants in partnership with her sister Kerri Harper-Howie. The successful entrepreneur has over 17 years of experience serving customers and communities throughout the Southern California area. Their restaurants regularly generate the highest sales in the region, and they have won numerous internal company awards, including the Ronald Award, Ray Kroc Award, and the Building the Business Through People and Quality Service Experience Award. Enearu gives back to the communities she operates restaurants in through scholarships, philanthropy, and mentorship. She serves on the CSUDH Foundation Board, as well as the boards of the Global Ronald McDonald House Charities, Greater Los Angeles YWCA, and the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce.
Victor Rodriguez (B.S., Biology, 1992), clinical professor in the Division of Cardiac and Vascular Surgery and Director of the Aortic Center at the UC Davis Medical Center. Keynote address: May 24 at 6 p.m.
At UC Davis, Rodriguez serves as director of the Aortic Center, and as a clinical professor at its School of Medicine. He is a board-certified general, vascular, and cardiac surgeon who specializes in diseases of the aorta. Within the disciplines of vascular and cardiac surgery, Rodriguez has had specialty training in complex aortic reconstructions of the whole aorta, including the chest and abdomen. He also performs endovascular operations, or minimally invasive operations of the aorta, and focuses on improving, or inventing, new surgical techniques of aortic surgery to help improve outcomes in such high risk, complex operations.