Graduation speaker and International Relations major Maria Jose Lozano stands for a portrait wearing a sash with Colombian flag on it at SF State on May 16, 2019. (JAMES CHAN/Golden Gate Xpress).

 

Nancy Pelosi, along with undergraduate Maria Jose Lozano and graduate student Alexis Adsit will speak at this year’s May 28 commencement.

Pelosi said she feels honored to be the keynote speaker, as this year’s ceremony comes during the 50th anniversary of student-led strikes that resulted in the establishment of the College of Ethnic Studies.

“Their courage advanced transformative progress not only on your campus, but on campuses across the country — propelling the priority of campus diversity and inclusion to the front of the national newspapers and the national consciousness,” Pelosi said in an email.

Lozano moved to the United States from Columbia when she was 14. Her experience as an immigrant guides her research on immigrant policies. When she received the news that she was selected as the undergraduate speaker she said she felt a touch of shock and anxiety, but decided to go through with it because she felt it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I think a part of me hasn’t really realized it yet, but it’s also been an interesting challenge to try and write a speech that can summarize my experience and my academic and personal development over the last [few] years,” Lonzano said.

One thing she will take away from her college experience is the collaborative work she was able to do with her professors for her research projects.

“I have been able to work alongside professors without feeling that hierarchy correlation,” Lozano said.“I’ve been able to work with them in a horizontal way, there’s always been an emphasis on expressing my thoughts and my interests and my passions.”

She said she urges students to seek mentors and build relationships with professors.

Lozano will be graduating this year with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and will be doing a master’s in human rights and humanitarian action at Sciences Po University in Paris.

Adsit said she received a degree in women and gender studies from SF State and is active in the LGBTQ community. She served as president of Everything Great About You (EGAY) the LGBTQ housing group and helped to found the Queer Yo Mind Conference that occurs every year at SF State.

Adsit has also helped create events such as World AIDS Day, National Coming Out Day and Trans Days of Visibility and Remembrance.
She will be graduating with a master’s degree in Ethnic Studies and will attend the University of Minnesota to attain a doctorate in feminine studies. This moment is significant to Adsit because she is one of the first trans-latinas to speak at this year’s ceremony.

“As a trans[gender]-latina, I’m not sure how many other transgender people of color have been invited to give commencement speeches. I’m also just so humbled and honored to be able to share my wisdom and experiences with the graduating class of 2019,” Adsit said.

She said she’s looking forward to hearing everyone share their experiences and celebrating this milestone with her peers.

“SFSU is one of the most diverse and unique campuses in the nation and so I am excited to hear more about various people’s experiences,” Adsit said.

As commencement approaches Pelosi urges fellow graduates to remain resilient despite current conflicts.

“In the many challenges we face ahead — the challenge of income disparity, combating the climate crisis, protecting immigrants and securing our democracy— I urge the Class of 2019 to have courage, too,” Pelosi said. “Know your power, know your purpose and be ready to make a difference because your success is America’s success.”