Cal State Bakersfield sent off more than 400 graduates Tuesday, a small chunk of what will by the end of the week be the second largest graduating class in the university's history.
CSUB will award degrees to 1,676 undergraduates and 398 master's candidates in three ceremonies this week.
The first, for students in master's degree and educational leadership doctoral programs, took place Tuesday night at CSUB's Icardo Center.
Uuniversity President Horace Mitchell gave the commencement address before the graduates and a crowd of about 2,000 attendees.
Mitchell used the story of first generation high school graduate and outstanding CSUB alumnae, Marisa Rissling -- the new principal at Eastside Elementary School in Lancaster's Eastside Union School District this fall -- as an example of the opportunities an education can produce.
Then, the university president charged the graduates with deciding "what in this world needs to change" before asking what they will do to change it.
They were questions Blanca Cavazos, doctoral graduate and superintendent of the Taft Union High School District, had already answered.
She said minutes before Tuesday's ceremony began she already is living her dream.
She earned a master's degree in bilingual cross-cultural education from CSUB in 1987 and later added a second master's degree in administration.
"This doctorate was for me," Cavazos said. "It wasn't to get a job."
Cavazos is among 17 CSUB students who are the first graduates to earn doctoral degrees in educational leadership as part of a partnership between Fresno State and CSUB.
Her peers included Dean McGee, who will begins July 1 as an assistant superintendent in the Kern High School District.
CSUB announced the doctorate in educational leadership, a six-year transitional program plan, in January 2011.
The program was designed to allow Bakersfield residents access to a doctorate in educational leadership while CSUB transitioned from a model for the program led by Fresno State professors to one housed and headed locally.
Cavazos said if the program did not exist she would have left the area to earn her doctorate.
"I think Cal State Bakersfield needs to keep its talent here and grow its talent here," she said.
The educational leadership program places the university a step closer to achieving that goal, Cavazos added.
"It's time," she said.