Union Institute & University National Commencement Announced

Union Institute & University’s in-person national commencement is Sunday, July 25, 2021, beginning at 2 p.m. Pacific time at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, Redondo Beach, California.

More than 140 students will participate, having earned degrees in the following areas: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, and Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies. In 2020, Union offered a virtual commencement in light of the global pandemic. Graduates from last year are also participating in this face-to-face event.

These graduates join about 500 other graduates of Union in 2021, as well as the elite legacy of more than 20,000 alumni who continue the Union mission to engage, enlighten and empower as they pursue professional goals and a lifetime of learning, service, and social responsibility.

President Karen Schuster Webb and Nelson E. Soto, Ph.D. provost & executive vice president for Academic Affairs will host the commencement ceremony. Beryl Watnick, Ph.D., doctoral faculty and chair of Educational Studies in the Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program, will serve as grand marshal and deliver the call to order. “America the Beautiful” will be performed by Maurice Griffin. Rev. Willie Antoni Sinkfield, Ph.D., a 2020 graduate of the Ph.D. program with a major in Ethical & Creative Leadership and concentration in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Studies Specialization and newly appointed associate dean for Community Life at Wesley Seminary in Washington D.C., will deliver the invocation.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Nelson Soto, Provost and Executive Vice President at Union Institute & University. Dr. Nelson Soto is provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, being named to the position in 2018, and having served Union since 2013. He holds a Ph.D. in educational policy studies from Indiana University, Bloomington, a master’s in education, and a bachelor of business administration from the University of Cincinnati.

As provost at Union, he is in the unique position to advance the university’s mission as a vehicle for change in the community through diversity and innovative education. He provides leadership in engaging and empowering adult learners in the larger society in which they live and work, building a mutually beneficial, expansive, and collaborative community that lives beyond the classroom.

Dr. Soto has focused his career on enabling and encouraging change and is deeply committed to ensuring that all individuals, no matter their background or circumstances, have access to higher education and opportunities to improve their own lives and those of their families.

Dr. Soto came to Union in 2013 from Harrison College in Indiana, where he was associate provost and vice president for curriculum and instruction. He also served at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, at Indiana University; the University of Missouri-Columbia; and the University of Cincinnati.

 Dr. Soto works with several non-profit boards, including Hoxworth Blood Center’s Community Advisory Board in Cincinnati, the Harvard Business Publishing Advisory Board, Cengage Advisory Board, Pearson Service Learning Board, and Harrison College’s Military Advisory Board.

Dr. Soto has two additional titles, granted in 2005, 2010, 2011. He is the proud husband of Dr. Ana Baratta and he has the pleasure of being the father of his son Daniel, age 11, and his daughter, Nicole age 9.

Dr. Ciriaco “Cid” Pinedo president and CEO of the Los Angeles Children’s Fund, will be bestowed with the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters: Honoris Causa by President Webb and Sharon K.G. Dunbar, Chair of the Board of Trustees, in recognition of their commitment and lifelong dedication to empower all through education and leadership.

Other highlights include the following:

Mark Dunakin Memorial Award presented to Sergeant Lucas Darland, B.S., 2021, in recognition of his academic excellence and record of service. Union created the award in 2009 to commemorate Sgt. Mark Dunakin’s life, lost in the line of duty while serving as a police officer in the city of Oakland, California. Sgt. Darland is the 11th recipient of the award.

Marvin B. Sussman Doctoral Award presented to Wilson Jordan, Ph.D., in recognition of his doctoral dissertation, Foregrounding the Racialized Body through Autoethnographic Reflections, chaired by Dr. Loree Miltich.

Learn more about National Commencement.


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