“I now declare commencement ceremonies for the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California open!” announced Francesca Mariani, associate professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, and integrative anatomical sciences at USC. As the grand marshal for the Keck School’s 2023 Commencement Ceremony for the master’s, doctoral, and nurse anesthesia programs, Mariani led the procession of graduates as they joined the ranks of the Trojan Family’s 450,000 living alumni.
Representing these graduates were two student speakers, selected by the Class of 2023: Bohdana-Myroslava Briantseva from the master’s program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, and Helena Bugacov from the PhD program in Development, Stem Cells, and Regenerative Medicine.
As the speaker representing the master’s students, Briantseva shared her story as a Ukrainian who was still finishing her undergraduate degree when Russian forces invaded her country. She evacuated Ukraine and moved to the United States to pursue her graduate studies, and found an inspiring and supportive community in the faculty, students, and administration at USC.
“My message today is that no matter where you are from or what circumstances brought you here, the USC Trojan Family will be there for you,” said Briantseva, who will continue to work as a researcher in the USC Stem Cell lab of Andy McMahon while applying to PhD programs.
As the speaker representing the PhD students, Bugacov gave an account of how USC and “the Keck Effect” fostered her growth not only as a scientist, but also as a scientific citizen. She traced the Keck Effect back to the 1990s, when her parents immigrated from Argentina to pursue graduate degrees at USC. The Keck Effect continued through her own experiences as a Trojan, ranging from teaching adolescents in juvenile hall how to use microscopes, to learning how apply her knowledge to improve human health.
The Keck Effect “has given countless opportunities to people like me to become a first-generation American Hispanic woman in science,” said Bugacov, who focused her PhD studies on kidney development in the McMahon Lab, and will start medical school in the fall. “This effect has evolved through three decades, and its potential for impacts in the future is limitless. And bringing it all together, the Keck Effect to me can feel like spreading magic.”
Keynote speaker Peter Kraft from the National Cancer Institute challenged the graduates to continue to “Fight On” with a quote from Bertolt Brecht’s play “Saint Joan of the Stockyards”: “Take care that when you leave the world, you were not only good but are leaving a good world.”
Dean Carolyn C. Meltzer conferred the degrees and warmly congratulated the Class of 2023 on their achievements and future endeavors, before the Trojan Marching Band concluded the ceremony with a jubilant rendition of the Alma Mater.
“Congratulations to the Class of 2023,” said Meltzer. “We can’t wait to see the difference you make in our understanding of the world.”