On May 13, Neumann University held its first Multicultural Graduation Celebration and Stole Ceremony, honoring the Class of 2022. This event was intended to provide a celebratory moment of recognition for graduating students from underrepresented groups.
The ceremony was open to all graduating students and was intended to be inclusive of all underrepresented and minority affinity groups. The celebration reinforced the bonds of academic excellence, extended the sense of community, and embarked students into their alumni status.
“I truly believe that events like these, which celebrate members of our community, speak to our RISES values, particularly around reverence, honoring the dignity of each member,” said Dr. Chris Haug, vice president for student affairs.
Neumann University’s RISES values were evident during the Stole Ceremony. Green, yellow, and blue candles were lit during the service. The green candle represented resilience and strength, the yellow candle represented unity and hope, and the blue candle represented truth and love.
Dr. Michelle Santana presented each graduate with a stole, a scarf-like garment draped around their shoulders. Each stole was hand-woven in Ghana, West Africa. These artisans weave as their life’s work, and the skill has been passed down through generations of weavers. These stoles were designed to encompass people of all races, genders, and ethnicities. The stole’s colors were also green, yellow, and blue.
According to Dr. Santana, the concept for this ceremony was the idea of graduating senior Davia Campbell. She is grateful for what she referred to as Campbell’s “selfless vision.” Campbell presented the idea of this special pre-commencement ceremony to Dr. Haug. She sought to celebrate the value and uniqueness of underrepresented and minority student experiences at NU.
“It was a beautiful ceremony that touched my heart in a profound way. It was apparent the students felt the same, as they were engaged in the presentations by the alumnae, the readings, and comments,” Santana said. “I was extremely proud of the diversity in student participants, and to see the students donned with the stoles at the graduation ceremony was just as heartwarming.”
Two alumnae spoke at the ceremony, Lieutenant Lisa Desamour ’20 and Ashley Barba ’21. Campbell was also a speaker. The stoles were blessed by Sr. Kathy Dougherty and Fr. Akolla Etuge.
“As the Chief Diversity Officer, I was honored and blessed to bestow the stoles on the students. The entire evening was a testament to who we are and how our RISES values live here at Neumann,” Santana explained.
The Stole Ceremony was a collaborative event involving many people across several NU departments. Student leaders Davia Campbell and Judith Colt worked with Jessica Webster, Dr. Michelle Santana, Patrick McKenzie, Fr. Akolla Etuge, Sr. Kathy Dougherty, Jackie Marciano, Alex Liska, Tahirah Stevens-Gaillard, Michael Webster, Stephanie Jones, and Dr. Chris Haug.