This spring witnessed the creation and continuance of an AU tradition – a pre-commencement celebration of students from underrepresented communities as they prepared to graduate from American University. The Third Annual Black Graduation, the Second Annual Latinx Graduation and the Inaugural Student-Veteran Graduation were a celebration of the hard-work and dedication of students from these communities.
The community graduations also provided an opportunity to bring together diverse communities within the African-American, Latinx and Veteran student body here at AU. Under the guidance of office of campus life and a staff liaison representing the AU Black Alumni Alliance, the AU Latino Alumni Alliance and the AU Veterans Alumni Network graduation committees were established for each of these events. These committees had representatives from several different student organizations including AU NAACP, African Student Organization, Black Student Union, Muslim Student Association, Alpha Phi Alpha, Phi Beta Sigma, AU Student Government, LASO, AU LULAC, Lambda Phi Chi, Voto Latino, and ODELL. Each of these receptions were designed, based on the input from students, faculty and alumni, to represent the culture and rich heritage of the respective communities.
Keynote speakers were selected with care to share their lived experiences and inspire the students. Dr. Ibram Kendi charged the students at Black Graduation to remain intellectuals. Alumna Ana Polanco, SPA/BA ’98, reminded the students at Latinx Graduation to stay true to who they are and always remember their origin story. Mark McKenna, Director, Student Veterans of America brought his experience of both an Army veteran and Veterans Education Specialist to the Veterans Graduation. The events also comprised of student speakers, student awards and a showcase of diverse talents. The events culminated with a symbolic recognition of the graduating class with the Kente Cloth, Serape Stole and Red and Blue Cords distribution ceremony. Alumni were present at each of the graduation to welcome the Class of 2018 into their ranks!
A one-AU Community was truly evident at each of these events with the acknowledgement of the varied experiences of different communities within AU. These events were presented in part by the support of the Inclusive Excellence Mini Grant.