Sacramento Kings’ Head Coach Among UC Davis Graduation Speakers

Four female graduates of the law school pose
Four graduates share a happy moment at the 2023 commencement of the UC Davis School of Law. This spring, the school leads off a season of 13 ceremonies beginning May 10. (Jose Perez/UC Davis)

The head coach for the NBA's Sacramento Kings, the undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the chief medical officer for Covered California are among the guest speakers for the spring commencement ceremonies of the University of California, Davis. The two others are a healthcare and philanthropic consultant, and an expert on race, class, reproductive rights and their intersection.

The season of 13 commencements begins Friday on the Davis campus and concludes with undergraduate ceremonies at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

Here are the speakers, according to the date of the ceremony at which they are speaking.

closeup of Bridges
Khiara M. Bridges

May 10 — Khiara M. Bridges, a professor of law at UC Berkeley, will speak to graduates and guests at the UC Davis School of Law commencement. Her scholarship has appeared in leading law reviews, and she is the author of three books: Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of RacializationThe Poverty of Privacy Rights, and Critical Race Theory: A Primer. A fourth book, Expecting Inequity: Race, Class, and Reproductive Justice, is under contract. Bridges has a law degree from Columbia Law School and a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University. She delivered the Bodenheimer Lecture on Family Law in 2021 as part of the Racial Justice Speaker Series at the UC Davis law school.

Closeup of Soni
Monica Soni

May 18 — Dr. Monica Soni, chief medical officer of Covered California since May 2023, will speak at the School of Medicine commencement. At the state’s health insurance marketplace, Soni is responsible for health equity, health care strategy, medical policy, medical management and other clinical operations to continuously improve contracted health plans and the state’s delivery system. Previously, she served as associate chief medical officer at New Century Health. Soni has served as director of specialty care for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and director for continuity of care at Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center. She was also an associate clinical professor at UCLA and an associate professor of internal medicine at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Soni received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Harvard College and her medical degree from Harvard Medical School. 

Closeup of Esteban
José Emilio Esteban

May 24 — Dr. José Emilio Esteban, a UC Davis alum who became the USDA’s undersecretary for food safety in 2023, will speak at the School of Veterinary Medicine commencement. He leads the office responsible for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, or FSIS, which has regulatory oversight for ensuring that meat, poultry and egg products are safe, wholesome and properly labeled. As the agency's chief scientist between 2018 and 2023, Esteban served as its primary scientific advisor on matters of public health and food safety. He joined the agency's Office of Public Health Science in 2008 and eventually became executive associate for laboratory services. Earlier, Esteban worked in several positions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He holds a Master of Preventative Veterinary Medicine (1990) and a Ph.D. in epidemiology (1993), both from UC Davis, in addition to a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and a Master of Business Administration.

Close up of Baade Song
Susan Baade Song

June 13 — Susan Baade Song, a health care and philanthropic consultant, will speak at the ceremony for the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. Previously a program officer who for 10 years led the efforts of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to support nursing leadership and innovation, Song worked closely with faculty and staff at the nursing school. Her collaborative support and strategic grantmaking were integral to the success of key initiatives at the school including the Family Caregiving Institute and the Betty Irene Moore Fellowship for Nurse Leaders and Innovators. Song has held roles in private philanthropy, leadership development and health care policy research. She has a Master of Public Health in health policy from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in political science and art history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Headshot of Mike Brown
Mike Brown

June 14-16 — Mike Brown, the head coach of the NBA's Sacramento Kings, will speak by way of a recorded video to the five undergraduate ceremonies at Golden 1 Center — home of the Kings. In his first season as head coach of the Kings, Brown guided Sacramento to the seventh-best record in the NBA and helped the Kings secure the third seed in the Western Conference. For his efforts, Brown became the first coach to be unanimously voted NBA Coach of the Year. With more than 30 years of NBA coaching experience, Brown has won four NBA championships as an assistant coach. In November 2020, Brown coached the Nigeria men’s national basketball team in the International Basketball Federation, or FIBA, qualifiers in Rwanda and in August 2021, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. He also served as a coach for the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa 2023, which brought together 80 boys and girls from 25 African countries. Brown is a graduate of the University of San Diego.

Faculty speakers

Faculty speakers for the five undergraduate ceremonies, nominated by their college’s dean, have been named. They are: 

  • June 14, 9 a.m. — Jay Stachowicz, professor, Department of  Evolution and Ecology, College of Biological Sciences
  • June 14, 2 p.m. — Debbie Fetter, assistant professor of teaching, Department of Nutrition, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, or CAES
  • June 15, 9 a.m. — Colleen E. Bronner, associate professor of teaching, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering 
  • June 15, 2 p.m. — Russ Hovey, professor, Department of Animal Science, CAES
  • June 16, 9 a.m. — Janine L. F. Wilson, associate professor of teaching economics, Department of Economics, College of Letters and Science

Commencement calendar

Following is a complete list of commencement dates, times and locations:

  • May 10 — School of Law, 11 a.m., University Credit Union Center
  • May 18 — School of Medicine, 10 a.m., Mondavi Center
  • May 24 — School of Veterinary Medicine, 3:30 p.m., Mondavi Center
  • June 12 — School of Education, 4 p.m., Mondavi Center
  • June 13 — Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, 10 a.m., Mondavi Center
  • June 13 — Graduate Studies, for masters students, 10 a.m., University Credit Union Center
  • June 13 — Graduate Studies, for Master of Fine Arts and doctoral students, 3 p.m., University Credit Union Center
  • June 14 — Graduate School of Management, 10 a.m., University Credit Union Center
  • June 14 — Two undergraduate ceremonies, 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., Golden 1 Center
  • June 15 — Two undergraduate ceremonies, 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., Golden 1 Center
  • June 16 — Undergraduate ceremony, 9 a.m., Golden 1 Center

More about commencement

Nine identity, cultural and affinity celebrations will be held June 6-15. More information on these events and commencements, including ticket requirements for most ceremonies, is available on the commencement website. Information about commencement livestreams will be available online.

In 2022-23, UC Davis conferred a total of 11,582 degrees: 9,011 bachelor’s, 813 professional, 1,134 master’s and 624 doctoral degrees.

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