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UC Merced Announces Spring Commencement Speakers

May 6, 2024

The speakers who will address graduating UC Merced students at their commencement ceremonies May 10-12 come from a variety of backgrounds and achievements, but all three are vanguards in their fields.

Friday evening, students earning graduate degrees will hear from UC Merced Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, former director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. On Saturday, community health CEO Cástulo de la Rocha will address students graduating from the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. On Sunday, graduates from the schools of Natural Sciences and Engineering will be sent off with a message from Charles Nies, UC Merced's vice chancellor for student affairs.

Berhe served as director of the federal agency from 2022-2024. She is a professor of soil biogeochemistry and the university's Ted and Jan Falasco Chair in Earth Sciences in the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences and a former associate dean of Graduate Education.

Berhe researches the intersection of soil science, geochemistry, global change science and political ecology. Her work seeks to improve the understanding of how the soil system regulates the earth's climate and the dynamic two-way relationship between soil and human communities. She is an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering; a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America; and a member of the inaugural class of the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine's New Voices in Science, Engineering and Medicine.