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Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis to speak at UC Merced 2019 commencements

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, California’s first partner and wife of Gov. Gavin Newsom, will address graduates during UC Merced’s commencement ceremony for its Schools of Natural Sciences and Engineering, the university announced Thursday.

In addition, Eleni Kounalakis, California’s first female lieutenant governor, will address the graduates from the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts the following day.

“We are honored to welcome to campus these two trailblazing women-who have forged successful paths in business, politics and the arts-and who will serve as an inspiration to our graduates as they enter the next stage in their lives,” said Chancellor Dorothy Leland in a news release.

Newsom and Kounalakis are expected to address more than 1,300 total graduates and their families during the ceremonies.

Newsom serves as an appointed member of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission and also serves on the advisory board for The Common Sense Media Gender Initiative, Emerge America and The Imagine Bus Project.

According to the release, Newsom is a filmmaker and advocate who has been involved in the writing, directing and producing of multiple films like the 2011 documentary “Miss Representation” and the 2015 film “The Mask You Live In”.

Newsom is also an executive producer on two Emmy Award-winning documentaries, “The Invisible War” and “The Hunting Ground”.

“It’s an honor to address graduates of the class of 2019 and to congratulate them on their tremendous achievements at this pivotal point in their personal and academic lives,” Newsom said in the release.

Newsom said she observed firsthand how the UC Merced community strives to be hard-working, accomplished and thoughtful, during a visit to the campus last fall.

“California is lucky to have such bright minds leading us into the future,” said Newsom.



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Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, will deliver a commencement address to University of California, Merced graduates and their families in May, according to the university.

As lieutenant governor, Kounalakis serves as senate president and chairs the Commission for Economic Development. Kounalakis also serves on the UC Board of Regents and CSU Board of Trustees, according to the news release.

Kounalakis said the university accomplished many achievements, including expanding educational access to the San Joaquin Valley.

“The campus’s resolve to continuously reach news milestones in scholarship and research is reflected in its inspiring faculty and students, and it is an honor to be welcomed into the Merced family as this year’s graduates prepare for the next chapter of their lives,” Kounalakis said in the release.

Kounalakis was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to chair the California Advisory Council for International Trade and Investment in 2014. Between 2014 and 2017 she served as virtual fellow at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

Kounalakis is a director of the Association of American Ambassadors. She

served as Ambassador the the Republic of Hungary under President Barack Obama from 2010 to 2013.

Prior to public service, Kounalakis served as president of AKT Development and served as a member of California’s First 5 Commission and the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism, according to the news release.

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