To the beat of African drumming, provided with fervor by the group Kuvebo!, the nearly four dozen graduating students in Commencement regalia processed into the Hoosier Room and took their seats amid rapturous applause from family and friends, faculty and staff.
The inaugural Multicultural Graduation Celebration was off to a good start. And it only got better–more profound, more emotional, more triumphant.
The undergraduate and graduate students had self-identified as belonging to ethnic minorities, including multiracial families.
Each received a stole to commemorate the accomplishment of overcoming the odds and persisting to graduation.
The stoles are a symbol of ethnic pride, with colors representing renewal, serenity, passion and multiculturalism. The stoles are adorned with symbols for knowledge, the key of success, and “Light and Truth”–the motto of Indiana University.
After a welcome from Chancellor Dr. Ray Wallace, and opening remarks from Dr. James Wimbush, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs, the student address was delivered by Mark Jallayu.
Jallayu focused on the value of each student story, as he recounted the origins of the event. A fellow Liberian student, Hussnatu Kamara, had initially approached him with the idea for an event celebrating minority students. With input from another Liberian student, Eva Nelson, the idea blossomed into a proposal that Jallayu presented to Chancellor Wallace, who fully embraced the concept.
“I hope each of us will take this moment to recognize how far we’ve come, and those who made it possible for that to happen,” Jallayu said.
Alumni Association speaker was Jaime Hunt, at-large member of the Clarksville Town Council, and the first and only African-American elected to that body.
Hunt spoke of growing up in Clarksville without political role models, and how his education at IU Southeast helped him discover himself as an agent of change.
That sort of transformation can happen when the campus community really invests in helping students see their potential, according to Dr. Seuth Chaleunphonh, dean of student life.
“Our students need to know that their presence serves a vital role on our campus,” Chaleunphonh said. “We want to be accessible and to be able to listen to what they need in order to truly be partners in their success at IU Southeast.”
For Chaleunphonh, identity should not prevent a student from obtaining the full benefits of an IU degree.
“At IU Southeast, we encourage the valuing and respecting of difference, including socio-economic status, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, cultural and international origin, and other groups traditionally underrepresented at the university and in society,” Wallace said. “We grow and evolve as a university through seeing equality and representation as a goal and human right for everybody.”
Homepage photo: Mark Jallayu addresses attendees at the Multicultural Graduation Ceremony.
For a gallery of images from this event, please visit the Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/iusoutheastalumni/albums/72157706861359001