Groups on campus recognized at graduation celebrationsBy Shahriyar Emami | 04/25/2018 9:02pm
With the end of the semester approaching, students are preparing for their graduation. In celebration, some organizations on campus are organizing events to recognize students of minority communities.
Graduation celebrations are not commencements where students get separate degrees. Instead, events like the Lavender Graduation ceremony, Nyansapo Graduation Celebration and the Veteran and Military Affairs commencement celebration honor the accomplishments of the minority populations at the University.
Hunter Stewart, a graduate student studying higher education administration and a future graduate, said the Lavender Graduation makes a big statement.
“Lavender Graduation is recognizing the unrecognized in a lot of ways, specifically on our campus,” Stewart said.
The 2018 Lavender Graduation is the eighth annual celebration at the University. However, Safe Zone, the group that sponsors the event, has been at the University for 15 years. Speakers come out and talk to the graduates during the event that recognizes LGBTQ+ students.
“It's recognizing all the history we have here,” Stewart said. “People who are traditionally not welcomed here, we’re gonna honor them.”
Career students, faculty and community members are some of the population that are recognized at the event.
“I think it says a lot about UA,” Stewart said. “It says that we’ve got a long way still to go but it recognizes the long way that we’ve been so far.”
Lane McLelland, director of UA Crossroads, said her group is one of many sponsors for events like the Lavender Graduation.
Lizzie Emerson is the graduate assistant for the Safe Zone Resource Center or SZRC. She is a third year PhD student in higher education administration.
As the only paid employee of SZRC, Emerson was responsible for organizing everything required for Lavender Graduation, from flowers and music to the speakers. She said the event, held on April 25, went really well.
“Everything went smoothly, our speakers were phenomenal, and people seemed to be in high spirits,” Emerson said. “Events like Lavender Graduation are so important to the LGBTQIA+ community at UA, because it’s one of the most significant examples of the strength of our community, our chosen family.”
Emerson was moved to see how many people showed up to support the graduates and celebrate their accomplishments this year.
Students of color will be honored through a ceremony on April 27 at 5 p.m. at the Bryant Conference Center. The BFSA will host the Nyansapo ceremony to celebrate students of color. Nyansapo, a Ghanaian symbol meaning intelligence, patience and ingenuity, was introduced to the University by two students.
Fred Horn II, a graduating Master of Accountancy and Fallan Frank, a University alumnus worked with the Black Faculty and Staff Association or BFSA to organize the Nyansapo Graduation Celebration. The BFSA has hosted Nyansapo since August 2016.
“We wanted to create this type of event to honor and recognize students of color when they graduate,” Horn said.
The ceremony pays homage to students’ academic accomplishments and graduation while keeping with Ghanaian tradition.
“During the ceremony, students are robed by family, friends or loved ones,” Horn said.
Kente Stole is a ceremonial Ghanaian cloth. After each graduate is robed, they say “ashe," which means the power to make things happen and produce change.
While Nyansapo is an event hosted by the BFSA, all graduates are welcome to attend. Then on May 4 at 1 p.m., the first day of the official UA commencements, is the Veteran and Military Affairs commencement celebration. Jamie Metcalf, a senior majoring in marketing, will also graduate in May. He is a veteran army corporal who will be attending the commencement celebration hosted by the office of Veteran and Military Affairs or VMA.
“I think it’s great because it’s showing that they appreciate the veterans and their sacrifices before and after they’ve entered the service,” Metcalf said.
The VMA celebration will take place on May 4 at 1 p.m. at the Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Alex Bynum, the assistant director of the VMA and organizer of the celebration said the event is being held at the VA Medical Center in order to encourage as many community members as possible to see the military-affiliated population graduate.
“I think that by highlighting this specific population, showing the success of service students is what sets this [event] apart,” Bynum said.
Metcalf transferred to the University after serving in Afghanistan. He is here on the GI Bill and a scholarship from the Veterans of Foreign Wars or VFW.
Metcalf said he had trouble readjusting to society and college life. For him, the hardest part of readjusting was the social aspect.
The maturity level of an 18 to 20 year old student is not like that of someone who has been in a combat zone, Metcalf said. While he was in the army, partying was the last thing on Metcalf’s mind.
“The best part of UA was getting to know my different professors and getting to learn from them,” Metcalf said. “Especially after I became more open about who I was.”
As Metcalf got to know his professors, they helped him with his career and goals. For him, this is a part of his college experience that he will remember forever.