TAMU-CC Celebrates Graduates of 2020, Spring 2021 with Special In-Person Ceremonies

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Three special in-person commencement ceremonies were awash with celebrations Saturday as Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi diplomas awarded degrees to 1,269 proud graduates.

After having to postpone commencement ceremonies for the past three semesters due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Island University held in-person commencement ceremonies for 2020 and spring 2021 graduates at the American Bank Center.

While the ceremonies were abbreviated due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, each Islander who crossed the stage enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate the long academic journey now completed before an audience of family and friends.

In her address, Dr. Kelly M. Miller, president and CEO of A&M-Corpus Christi, thanked the graduates for the honor and prestige they have brought to the University during their time as students.

“You set a goal, and have achieved that goal – an achievement, an educational level, very few in this world have obtained,” Miller said. “And you have persevered – many of you, if not all of you – through two hurricanes; all of you through a freeze and all of you through a global pandemic.”  

The day began with a ceremony honoring the spring 2021 graduates of the colleges of Education and Human Development, Nursing and Health Sciences, and Science and Engineering. A 1:30 p.m. ceremony included the spring 2021 graduates of the colleges of Business, Liberal Arts, and University College. A 5 p.m. ceremony finished the day with recognition of 2020 graduates from all six academic colleges.

The event held special significance for Islander Mauro Garcia ’21, who received a Master in Science in Chemistry. Garcia is a first-generation college student, achieving a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and now is the first in his family to be awarded a master’s degree.

“As a first-generation, Hispanic and gay student in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), graduating with a master’s degree ultimately means that I was able to break misconceptions of what a scientist looks like and persevere in a field where minorities are significantly underrepresented,” Garcia said. “My graduation is much bigger than myself; I want this to be a moment where other first-generation and minority students see diverse representation in STEM and believe they, too, can be scientists.”

Garcia received several opportunities to pursue a Ph.D. and decided to attend Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to study pharmacology and molecular sciences. He feels a special calling to focus on the disproportional impact of disease on marginalized communities, a situation he saw was amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Garcia intends to focus his efforts on treatment for malaria.

Communication Studies major Faith Richards ’21 encouraged new Islanders to step out of their comfort zone and join a student organization. During her time on campus, Richards served as a program coordinator for University Center Programs, founded the women’s empowerment group Queen Beauty Club and was the student director of Islander Cultural Alliance. Richards received Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies.

“Working and serving the university in all the ways that I have is the best decision I ever made,” Richards said. “The experiences that I’ve had on campus are the only reason that I’m where I’m at today.”

Richards was not only a graduate on Saturday; she was also an audience member at the 5 p.m. ceremony to watch fiancé Isaac Neyra ’20 formally receive his BA in Communication Studies. The couple plans to marry on May 29.  

Lauren Pack ’20 earned a Bachelor of Arts in Media Arts last spring, the semester that the pandemic forced statewide lockdown and shifted coursework to an entirely virtual format.

“All those years, I had been dreaming about walking the stage with my family and friends in the audience and I just felt like COVID robbed me of that moment,” Pack said. “So today’s ceremony is closure – this is the moment where it finally feels real. I’m so thankful that the university didn’t forget about us.”

All three ceremonies were streamed live and can be viewed at commencement.tamucc.edu.