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Campus Life

From Orientation to Graduation, Campus Community Centers Uplift Graduates

Graduating student dressed in red regalia faces NC State Belltower
Image credit: Becky Kirkland

From the first step on campus to the final stride across the graduation stage, NC State’s campus community centers celebrate and uplift the range of unique identities across the university. Every spring semester, our centers are bustling with graduation plans.

While only the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) and the GLBT Center conduct annual graduation ceremonies, all four centers diligently work to support graduates during their final season on campus.

Being involved in so many multicultural organizations and events has brought me so many memories that I’ll cherish well beyond college”
-Rosali Su

The African American Cultural Center hosts the annual Ebony Harlem Awards of Excellence, where graduating students are given AACC kente cords. The awards recognize the work and impact of Black students, staff and faculty on and off campus.

The Women’s Center wraps up the year with Spring Signature events, including Women’s Herstory Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year, the Women’s Center recognized its 30th anniversary with a year-long celebration.

“I am forever thankful for MSA and AACC for providing me with community and family.” -Brianna Brooks

Finding community is not always easy when there are over 35,000 students to connect with. MSA offers students a space to feel seen and heard while engaging with peers they see themselves reflected in. The annual Multicultural Graduation is a moment for MSA students to celebrate the culmination of the work they’ve done and be recognized in a way that centers their identity.

Welcome display at the Multicultural Graduation features a photo board and MSA regalia on the check in table.

“For at least one minute, this is about you,” says Dave Johnson, interim director of the Multicultural Student Affairs Center. 

MSA held its first Multicultural Graduation in 2015. Since the inaugural event, students anticipate the ceremony and the joyous moments it offers them as they share a milestone with the community they helped build. In 2022, MSA’s Multicultural Graduation celebrated 50 graduates.

MSA graduates face Sherry Schwab, Vice Provost of OIED at NC State.
The Multicultural Graduation welcomed family and friends of the 2022 graduates.

The GLBT Center also has a special ceremony, Lavender Graduation, that’s celebrated throughout the country. The first event was organized in 1995 by Ronni Sanlo at the University of Michigan. Today, more than  200 universities maintain the tradition of hosting their version of the ceremony to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual and aromantic students, and to celebrate their achievements.

The GLBT Center Awards and certificates are displayed on table along with a rainbow tassel.

NC State’s first Lavender Graduation was held in May 2009, a year after the GLBT Center opened. Every spring since, our LGBT+ students have participated in the ceremony where identities are affirmed, awards are presented, and each graduate receives a rainbow stole. This year, the GLBT Center celebrated three students with center awards and 35 graduates from across the university.

Rainbow graduation stoles are lined up on a display table at the Lav Grad.
Rainbow stoles are gifted to every Lavender Graduate during the annual ceremony.

The Lav Grad is not the most anticipated event of the year for the GLBT center — it comes second only to the annual GLBT Symposium, held every fall. The symposium is the first opportunity LGBT+ students have to welcome incoming students into the community. The half-day event highlights the start of a journey for new students while the Lavender Graduation celebrates the closing of it. 

“It feels like really meaningful bookends,” says Rain Garant, assistant director of the GLBT Center. 

From the first event to the last, the center works to support students year-round.

“I am grateful for spaces within certain communities, such as the Goodnight Scholars Program, Multicultural Student Affairs, and the Women and Minority Engineering Programs that have created nurturing and encouraging environments during my undergraduate career.” -Kerrington Shade

The campus community centers — and the staff that keep them going — strive to cultivate a community of shared identities and belonging. As current students make homes in the physical spaces the center offers them, they are able to take that home across campus — ensuring incoming students find their place at NC State that much easier.