Spacewalking Astronaut and Alumna Jessica Meir to be Commencement Keynote Speaker

Astronaut and UC San Diego alumna Jessica Meir will serve as the keynote speaker at the 2022 All Campus Commencement Ceremony. Meir was part of the six-month expedition in 2020 to the International Space Station and was selected to fly to the moon in 2025 for NASA’s Project Artemis. Meir will be the second woman ever to hold the honor of speaking to UCSD graduates, following former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. 

In a statement, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla said that Meir’s impressive achievements as a scientist and astronaut made her the clear choice for the speaker. 

“UC San Diego alumna Jessica Meir entered history as a scientist, an astronaut and as an ambassador of peace and goodwill for all of humanity,” Khosla said. “Her fearless exploration and collaborative research with scientists and astronauts from around the globe exemplify the spirit of UC San Diego. Our graduates are looking forward to learning about her adventures — from the sea to space — and hearing her words of wisdom.”

Meir will most likely speak to the largest-ever graduating class, where it’s believed that up to 11,000 students could get their degrees. 

The All-Campus Commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 11 at RIMAC Field will begin at 8:15 a.m., with the procession of graduates, and will last from 9–11 a.m. The graduate division master’s ceremony will be from 12:30–2:30 p.m. Then, starting the individual college commencements, graduates from John Muir college will walk from 1:30–3:15 p.m. The Graduate Division Doctoral/Master of Fine Arts Ceremony will be from 4:30–6:30 p.m. Then from 5:30–7:15 p.m, graduates from Sixth College will walk for the Sixth College commencement. 

Additionally on June 11, the Jacobs School of Engineering will host a ring ceremony, where graduating undergraduates from the school will recite a graduation oath, and receive a ring representing their commitment to upholding standards of ethics, integrity, and quality as engineers. 

Then on Sunday, June 12, there will be more commencement ceremonies focusing on specific schools and colleges. Revelle College graduates will be walking at their own college-specific commencement from 8–9:45 a.m., while graduates of Rady School of Management will be walking at the RIMAC Arena from 9–11 a.m. Thurgood Marshall College graduates will have their own commencement at 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at RIMAC Field. Then, graduating students in the School of Global Policy and Strategy will have their commencement at the RIMAC Arena. The Eleanor Roosevelt College Commencement will happen from 3–4:45 p.m. at RIMAC Field. Finally, the Earl Warren College Commencement will take place at RIMAC Field from 6:30–8:15 p.m. 

Additionally, there will be special graduation ceremonies for certain student groups on campus. The Military-Connected Graduation Ceremony will be on May 25 at 12 p.m. On Tuesday, May 31, the CASP grad ceremony will take place and feature student leaders from CASP partnership schools, VCSA, VC EDI, VC Advancement, EVC, College Provosts and Deans. On June 1, the Transfer Grad Celebration will take place in-person at 7 p.m. The Rainbow Graduation Ceremony for LGBTQIA+ students will take place on June 4, at 10 a.m. Finally, the Black Graduation Ceremony and the Xicanx/Latinx Graduation Ceremony will happen on Friday, June 10.      

Meir graduated from Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1999 and then received a Master’s in Space Studies from the International Space University at the university in Strasbourg in 2000. She then earned a doctorate’s degree in Marine Biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2009. 

“Since finishing her degree, she has continued to be involved with the campus, including participating in a Facebook live video to answer student questions in 2017 and speaking with young students from space through a program with Scripps Oceanography in 2020,” University Communications Assistant Director Erika Johnson said on the behalf of UCSD. 

Prior to being an astronaut, Meir studied the physiologies of animals living in extreme conditions. From 2000 to 2003, she worked for Lockheed Martin’s Human Research Facility. During this time, Meir helped in research flights on NASA’s reduced gravity aircraft and served as an aquanaut in an underwater habitat for NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operation. 

While she was a doctoral student at Scripps, Meir studied the physiology of deep-diving animals such as emperor penguins. She studied penguins during four research expeditions to Antarctica. There, Meir lived in isolation with a small team that included her Scripps advisors Paul Ponganis and Jerry Kooyman. Meir credits this experience to having helped her prepare for space travel. 

“There are so many parallels to the way that we do things at NASA in terms of learning those valuable teamwork skills: leadership, followership, communication and taking care of the team,” Meir said to the UC San Diego News Center. “Especially in a harsh environment like the Antarctic and space, there are so many parallels and all of that training, all of my Scripps mentors were really invaluable to that process.”

In 2013, Meir was chosen for astronaut training at NASA. In September 2019, Meir reached new heights when she made her first trip into space. Meir traveled to the International Space Station, where she spent more than 200 days as part of the outpost’s science team. One month later, on Oct. 18, 2019, Meir and fellow astronaut Christina Koch made history when they performed the first all-woman spacewalk while doing upgrades.

When asked why UCSD chose Meir to speak at graduation, Johnson stated that Meir was a great source of inspiration to students at her alma mater, and was a shining representation of UCSD’s mission of collaboration and ingenuity. 

“Meir, PhD ’09, is a shining example of how the Triton spirit of innovation and bold exploration can propel you to infinite heights and world-renowned impact,” Johnson said. “Meir’s fearless exploration and collaborative research with scientists and astronauts from around the globe exemplify the spirit of UC San Diego. She has made strides in science in ways that only a small number of people ever have — or ever will — and represents the ethos of innovation, protecting our planet, and forging new paths that our students are taught to embrace.” 

UCSD also hopes that Meir will give great insights to graduates about future career paths. 

“Meir will offer insights about her journey as a scientist, an astronaut, and as an ambassador of peace to inspire graduates to see limitless possibilities for their futures,” Johnson said. 

The All Campus Commencement will be an in-person ceremony for all undergraduate and graduate students and are open to all graduating students and their guests. For those who are unable to attend the commencement ceremony in person, a livestream will be available on the UCSD Commencement website beginning at 9 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on June 11. For more information, you can refer to the UCSD Commencement website. 

Photo provided by NASA