Graduating seniors who worked with the Multicultural Student Services Center celebrated at a graduation ceremony in Lisner Auditorium Thursday.
Keynote student speakers and administrators provided words of wisdom to the Class of 2017, encouraging graduates to embrace their backgrounds and identities while ensuring their voices are heard throughout their lives after graduation.
Here are some of the highlights of the ceremony:
1. ‘Right each wrong’
Michael Tapscott, the director of the MSSC, said graduates’ cultural leadership will put them one step ahead of other graduates in a world that is growing more diverse.
He said graduates should seek to resolve any lingering tensions with people on campus as they prepare to graduate.
“Right each wrong, leave here with no regrets, hug them, hold them, forget petty differences because you’re moving on to the next developmental phase of your life and you never know who you may never see again,” he said.
2. Keeping up the fight
Victoria Gonçalves, a graduating senior and former president of the Organization of Latino American Students who spoke on behalf of GW’s LGBTQ community, congratulated her fellow multicultural students for finishing their undergraduate educations despite enduring obstacles like working with limited financial aid and being underrepresented among faculty.
“We’ve had to navigate all of the ways in which this institution wasn’t made for us,” she said. “We’ve been tokenized and taken advantage of all while supporting each other through the chaos that is college life.”
Caroline Laguerre-Brown, the vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement, said it would be up to the graduates to continue the fight for equality.
“Keep at the forefront of your mind the thinking that justice and equality for all are ideals that we have yet to achieve in this country,” she said.
3. Remembering who you are
Mikeala Sparks, a graduate who spoke for the Native American community on campus, said at times she had been using different identities in different situations on campus, but urged graduates to “strip down” these identities as a community.
“You all have been brave enough to kind of strip down with me every day and look at each other not as what we are or what we are not but rather just that we are students.”
Alisha Prakash Malkani, a graduate and the former president of the South Asian Society, said
she found her home and cultural identity in her organization and the MSSC as a whole.
She said in the current political climate, she began to feel out of place at GW, but the multicultural community supported her and other multicultural and minority students.
“Now the color of my skin means history,” she said. “It means sacrifice. It means love, and it means celebration. This is where my salvation identity is now.”
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