It’s the end of spring quarter, and this means students in their first three years are living it up in the sun, while seniors feel the overbearing stress of closing out their undergraduate years. However, along with that anxiety comes fun, and along with commencement, graduating seniors and graduate students will be sent off with a variety of celebrations.
Two of those celebrations will be specifically oriented toward marginalized groups of people, in celebrating their success at institutions that haven’t always been open to all groups of people.
The Graduating Students of Color Celebration and Lavender Graduation will celebrate students of color and LGBTQ students, respectively. These celebrations will feature festivities, several speakers and the distribution of cords to wear at commencement.
“Many campuses across the country coordinate programs like Lavender Graduation and Graduates of Color [Celebration] as an opportunity to recognize the students as they’re finishing their senior year, or their final year with us,” said Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) Director Czarina Ramsay.
Assistant Director at OMA Tyrone Brown, added that these celebrations also function to recognize “the whole person” as part of the Jesuit mission.
“When we talk about our mission, we say ‘We’re here to educate the whole person,’” Brown said. “Well, this speaks to that. The wholeness of [how] you’re a graduate in the traditional sense, but the wholeness of [how] you also may be the first in your family, or within your community, what have you. So, I feel like really at its core, these celebrations manifest through that part of the mission.”
One of the event organizers, Program Coordinator at OMA Eva Long expressed how the events aim to celebrate the strength of the students who have excelled at an institution not designed for them.
“Just thinking about the historical context of institutions of higher education, it was not built for these individuals,” Long said. “So just thinking about their life experiences before coming to college and all of the barriers that they have faced applying, getting onto campus, through academia…it’s a platform for us to celebrate their incredible adversity and resiliency to get to this point.”
Ramsay said that there is also symbolism in sending off the graduates whom OMA has been interacting with for the past four years.
“For our students who participate in both events, often it’s true that we are among the first offices and staff members that they’ll have interaction with during Summer in Seattle, as they come in through Week of Welcome,” Ramsay said. “And so when Tyrone is referring to that send-off, how beautiful it is for us to welcome people to campus, and then also send them off into their next journey… for us, it’s a gesture of gratitude and wanting to let them know that their relationship with OMA at Seattle U continues as alums, as well.”
Beyond the deeper meaning, Ramsay added that at its core it is a celebration, and it’s supposed to be a fun event. She said she especially loves meeting the families of the graduates after having known them for so many years.
Program Coordinator at OMA Ariana Chini described some of the programming in line for Lavender Graduation, which she hopes will be a really fun celebration.
“We have three reflection speakers: a current student, a graduating student and an SU alum, and then we also have a keynote speaker,” Chini said. “And this year, we’re giving it a fun little twist… Lavender Graduation is going to be hosted by Isabella Elle Richards, who was a hit at the drag show.”
Long said that Graduating Students of Color Celebration will follow a similar format.
“We have a keynote speaker, a staff reflector, we also have two students giving a reflection about their time at Seattle University, and we also present three awards,” Long said. “So one is the Sankofa award that is awarded to a faculty or a staff that has contributed greatly to the success of students of color on this campus. We also have the Bayanihan award and the Poder award, which is awarded to graduating students who have made a tremendous impact in their community.”
At its core, these celebrations seek to center students and their experiences at this university, both as members of marginalized groups and as students who have invested time, energy and money into this work and are now reaping the rewards.
“Being able to navigate this space and accomplish both your personal and academic goals comes with both a lot of excitement and celebration and benefit, but there’s also challenges too,” Ramsay said. “So, in the spirit of recognizing the history of both communities, we hold these to showcase that richness that each of our students who participate in one of our celebrations might have experienced in their time here.”
Both of these events are open to graduating undergraduate, graduate and law students. Graduates should RSVP at www.tinyurl.com/SULavGrad2017 or www.tinyurl.com/GSOCC2017, for Lavender Graduation and Graduating Students of Color Celebration, respectively.
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