MSSC graduates tell classmates to keep pushing for ‘progress and justice’

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Graduating senior Devan Cole speaks about racial injustice he witnessed throughout his college career at the MSSC Multicultural Graduation Celebration Thursday.

Graduating seniors gathered in Lisner Auditorium for the 10th annual Multicultural Student Services Center graduation ceremony Thursday.

The celebration consisted of multiple keynote speakers, awards and student speakers representing various multicultural communities.

The ceremony concluded with the graduates receiving red stoles to be worn during the University-wide Commencement Sunday.

1. Take time to reflect

Caroline Laguerre-Brown, the vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement, welcomed the audience and called upon the graduating students to “absorb and internalize the significance of the accomplishment that college graduation represents.”

She said graduates should take in all they have learned during their college careers and “take stock” of the strength and perseverance they’ve gained throughout their time at GW.

“Once you’ve taken that time, put that knowledge in a safe place in your mind,” she said. “You will need to remember that you are smart and that you are capable of tackling whatever comes your way because you have a track record of success.”

2. Remember where you came from

Michael Tapscott, the director of the MSSC, called on the graduates to look at their friends around the room and “remember them, cherish them and stay connected to them.”

He then asked the audience to participate in a Quaker tradition, telling graduates and parents to shake the hand of two strangers and introduce themselves, saying “I will remember you” and “you are amazing.”

In his speech, Tapscott gave advice on a variety of topics like hard work, spirituality and empathy. The speech wrapped up with Tapscott thanking the students for allowing the MSSC to be a part of their college experience.

“It’s our hope that you leave here knowing that you were important to us, that you mattered to us and that you always belong here,” he said.

Joseph Verghese, who represented the Asian Pacific Islander community, also touched upon the community that was cultivated through the MSSC.

“The biggest thing though, is the sense of community we felt we had among our orgs,” Verghese said. “Although we were all culturally diverse, we were inclusive and there for each other.”

3. Work for change

Devan Cole, who spoke representing GW’s black community, discussed racial injustices on and off campus.

Cole spoke in detail about a Snapchat post that included a racist caption that was circulated on campus earlier this year. He said the time and dedication of the black community following the spread of the post led University President Thomas LeBlanc to pass initiatives to improve the campus experience.

“It was a monumental win, but it wouldn’t have come without the work of so many of you,” Cole said. “The meetings, the resolution, the entire campaign was possible because you stayed up nights, skipped classes, internships and work shifts all in the name of progress and justice.”

Cole said he did not share these experiences to sadden the audience, but rather to show how important it was to have a community because of the “strength it provided during some of our most trying times.”

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