Bruins are always innovating. Never is this more apparent than at commencement, when many of the thousands of graduating seniors wear identical caps and gowns, but many accessorize their outfits uniquely via custom adornments on their mortarboards.

“I thought it would be really fun to decorate it and have my own individual identity in a sea of other caps,” recalls Natalie Perez ’19. “I had seen the history of it in the past decade and students doing it all the time … People got so creative!”

Anecdotally, the practice of decorating one’s mortarboard is largely thought to have begun in the tumult of the late 1960s, when many graduates festooned their caps with peace signs. Through the decades, the personal stylings have only gotten more innovative, inspirational and imaginative (and occasionally still political). Perez — now an actor and an assistant manager for theaters within the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television — chose to embellish hers with a quote: “Find your own freedom, live life on your terms.”

Not a bad adornment for any Bruin’s cap. 

Read more from UCLA Magazine’s Summer 2024 issue.