Congrats, Class of 2014!

UCSC's Class of 2014 is filled with students who are ready to make a difference in the world. Click here for a look at three. Click here for more commencement photos.

Dozens of plain flour tortillas soared through the air like edible Frisbees during UC Santa Cruz’s commencement activities last weekend.

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Photos by Carolyn Lagattuta

Taylor Boyce, 25, who received his master's degree in education on Friday, handed out the tortillas to his fellow graduate students, and saved a few to throw himself, “because they are the most aerodynamic food.”

Besides, he said, his graduation cap was too expensive for him to just throw into the air and possibly misplace.

Boyce’s combination of against-the-grain creativity and clear-eyed pragmatism was not unusual during commencement weekend, hosted by UCSC's 10 colleges, as well as the graduate division and the Baskin School of Engineering.

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In his commencement remarks at the graduate-level commencement festivities, Valery Rashkov, a research scientist at Pandora Media who received his Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics from UCSC last year, focused on a similar combination of pragmatism and free-wheeling, soulful experimentation.

He spoke of his many false starts and missteps along the way toward finding his dream job. He urged the soon-to-be graduates to take plenty of risks, trying paths “that may take you to a better or worse place.”

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For all his intensive scientific learning, Rashkov, when he first started work at Pandora, was in for a surprise: "I couldn’t even answer a basic question such as: what song should I play next?” But he praised UCSC for showing him "how to look for the bigger picture" and helping him find his way through "a messy world with fewer rules. The path you will take may or may not be the path you imagined.”

He also urged students to remember that their diplomas bore the imprint of all the faculty, friends, and family members who helped them out along the way. 

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As the graduate students prepared to walk out into the field to the prerecorded strains of Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance, March Number 1,” they looked back on their years of hard work and the communities that supported them. 

Danielle Kohfeldt, 31, who earned her Ph.D. in social psychology, wrote a dissertation about "children as activist artists,’’ exploring the ways children make public art with social justice themes, and how the process of working together on a mural can turn them into active, collaborative participants. 

Kohfeldt said she learned a great deal about how to be a good teacher, how to do community based research, and how to create an inclusive classroom for the undergraduates who took her course at UCSC. She said that it was uplifting and “mind blowing” to work with elementary school-aged kids and get a first hand look at their critical and analytical skills.

Shinchieh Duh, 36, is earning her Ph.D. in psychology, and is bound for San Jose State University, where she will be an assistant professor. After going through the program at UCSC, “I am able to handle difficult questions. I feel so much more confident now.”

More than 4,300 UCSC students were set to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees for work completed during the 2013-2014 academic year. A total of 3,868 students are candidates for bachelor degrees for work completed in the arts, engineering, humanities, physical and biological sciences, and social sciences. Spring candidates for bachelor degrees total 2,495, according to the UC Santa Cruz registrar's office. Another 1,373 completed coursework and applied for their degree in the summer, fall, or winter quarters.