Queens Kicks Off Commencement Season with Unique Celebrations
Queens University of Charlotte kicked off commencement season by celebrating diversity and inclusion at its first annual Multicultural and Lavender Ceremonies. In addition to 2023 Commencement on May 6, these unique ceremonies provided an opportunity to appreciate our differences and commonalities by creating a space that fosters inclusion and champions diversity on campus.
“Higher education wasn’t necessarily built with the diversity of the students in mind and in some instances, the identities that they hold may have been historically excluded from American education,” said LeAnna Rice, assistant vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion. “We celebrate and honor our multicultural graduates because at one point it was simply their ancestors’ wildest dream to be a college graduate, and our graduates are the manifestation of those dreams.”
The Multicultural Ceremony featured guest Speaker Gwen Jackson ‘01, a Queens alumna and founder of Urbane Environments, an organization specializing in community relations for real estate development that focuses on inclusivity and diversity. She recently founded Future Scapes, Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports redevelopment and youth education in urban communities.
“This ceremony is further evidence that Queens University continues to evolve in observing and honoring diversity and inclusion,” said Jackson. “I am proud to be an alumna and want to let our graduates know that in the Queens tradition, they will be lifelong learners – guided and enlightened by the Queens motto, ‘not to be served, but to serve.’”
The student address was delivered by Briana Meyer ’23, a senior in the McColl School of Business and student-athlete on the women's rugby team. In addition to earning her Bachelor of Science in business administration, Meyer will receive a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. She plans to incorporate her Hispanic heritage and both majors in her future career. Meyer is the secretary of the Student Government Association and is highly involved across campus attending various multicultural events.
“I’ve made amazing connections with other multicultural students, and I could not be more grateful for the opportunities at Queens which have allowed those relationships to form and flourish,” said Meyer. “Understand how important it is for a person’s culture and identity to be recognized and accepted – this is why events like this are so vital.”
The first Lavender Ceremony was held in 1995 at The University of Michigan and was created by Ronni Sanlo, Ed.D., to honor and acknowledge the unique achievements and contributions of LGBTQIA2S+ and ally students across college campuses. The color lavender is a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle designating lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany.
“This may be the first Lavender ceremony at Queens, but this will not be the last,” said Elizabeth Rogers, associate director for interpersonal violence prevention and Title IX response. “We celebrate our graduates as they have advocated for the inclusion of everyone, despite their identity. We see you, we hear you and we love you.”
The Lavender Ceremony featured guest speaker Matthew French, founder of Awesomely Authentic, an organization geared toward helping companies reach their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. He currently works in the aviation industry as a DEI manager.
“Never lose sight of who you are,” said French. “Never dim your light for any company or for any person -don’t lose that spark within you.”
The student address was delivered by Lance Sotelo ’23, a student in the Knight School of Communication and student-athlete on the men’s cross-country and track and field teams. He is the Student Government Association senior class president and a part of the DEI student-athlete committee. Sotelo was also awarded the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN) Runner of the Week.
“No matter how many people or politicians or bills try to invalidate our community’s existence, they can never erase us,” said Sotelo. “Hate will not erase the love we give each other, or the love we give to the people who hate the most.”