May 13, 2024
On Campus

Week of Celebration

LGBTQIA+ and Multi-Cultural Students Achievements Honored During Commencement Week

Invigorating dance performances, reflections on the years gone by, and a lot of tears of joy were all part of Wittenberg’s Commencement week as the University celebrated diversity, connections, and support during two special events leading up to the 174th Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 11: LGBTQIA+ Lavender Graduation and Hitimu: Multicultural Graduation Celebration.

The fifth annual LGBTQIA+ Lavender Graduation Celebration, hosted by the William A. McClain Center for Diversity, celebration took place on Wednesday, May 8. Lavender Graduation is a pre-Commencement celebration that honors the achievements of Wittenberg’s LGBTQIA+ graduates and the outstanding and meaningful work that community members and allies contribute to the campus and beyond.

Hitimu Multicultural Celebration 2024

“This event is not only a time to uplift the accomplishments of and honor the graduates, but it is also a time to celebrate the perseverance, strength, relationships built, and excitement and hope for future endeavors,” said Joi Garrett Scales, assistant dean for diversity, inclusion, & belonging and director of McClain Center for Diversity. “So, for this evening, I hope you laugh, cry, (maybe laugh-cry), bop your head, reminisce, exchange numbers and emails, and just enjoy yourselves as we celebrate these wonderful and accomplished humans!”

The event featured dinner by Parkhurst, an invocation by the David P. and Carol Matevia Endowed University Pastor Tracy Paschke-Johannes, student readings, class of 2024 reflections, a special dance performance by Modern Elements, and tunes by DJ Chaunta Banks, Wittenberg class of 2013. Scales gave a shout-out to several students who were recipients of the Outstanding Scholar Award, which acknowledged those graduating seniors with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. She also recognized several students with the McClain Center Organization Dedication Award given to graduating students who have contributed time, love, and talent throughout their time at Wittenberg to the causes of organizations advised by the McClain Center for Diversity.

Three students received special awards voted on by their peers. The Tiger Up and Out Award was presented to Miya Miller from Grove City, Ohio; the Perseverance Award was given to Hope Messer from Indianapolis, Indiana; and the Passing Light Award to Danny Bean from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

After the presentation of awards, students were given lavender cords to wear at graduation if they chose to. Each student was ‘corded’ by their chosen mentors/advocates or allies.

The Lavender Graduation is a tradition that began in the mid-1990’s across the country. A cultural celebration that recognizes LGBTQIA+ students of all ethnicities and acknowledges their persistence, leadership, and contributions to the University. Wittenberg joined the many colleges and universities in celebrating this occasion in 2019, and it is now a University tradition.

Then on Friday, May 10, Wittenberg’s William A. McClain Center for Diversity hosted the fifth annual Hitimu: Multicultural Graduation Celebration honoring the University’s multicultural students.

Lavender Graduation Celebration 2024

Graduating seniors were recognized at the Hitimu (meaning ‘graduate’ in Swahili) event in front of friends, family, and members of the Wittenberg University community in the Center Dining Room (CDR) of the Benham-Pence Student Center. All students received a stole that they could wear at graduation and were recognized for their work in the various student groups throughout their time at Wittenberg. The stoles graduates wear collectively celebrate their identities, journeys, individual achievements as students in obtaining college diplomas, as well as the legacies that Black, Latinx, Hawaiian/Polynesian, and Filipino graduating students have created and actively cultivated here at Wittenberg.

“Over the years, this celebration has evolved to recognize the multicultural landscape of our student body and aims to celebrate our students and the cultural traditions they value and hold dear,” Scales said at the celebration. “As we’ve already begun, the event is meant to be a cultural expression of pride in our graduates, praise of our graduates, wisdom from our elders and community to our graduates, and just an overall expression of happiness and celebration. After navigating the last four years through a pandemic and back again, our graduates deserve this opportunity. So, enjoy the food, the company, the performances, and celebrate our 2024 graduates with me.”

The event also featured dinner by Parkhurst, a blessing by Rev. Charmaine Webster, student readings, class of 2024 reflections, special dance performances by Olohana’s Polynesian Dance in Dayton, Ohio, Diamond Green and Taylor Reese of the Funk Lab Center in Kettering, Ohio, and tunes by DJ Banks.

Several students received the Outstanding Scholar Award and the McClain Center Organization Dedication Award. Three students also received special awards voted on by their peers. The Bridge-Builder Award was presented to Joseph Kuzilwa from Canal Winchester, Ohio; the Perseverance Award was given to Kaulana Smith from Dayton, Ohio; and the Passing Light Award to Branden Nicholas from Oak Park, Michigan.

The Lavender and HItimu events also featured a closing statement from Casey Gill, vice president for student development and dean of students, along with student readings and poems by Gabriella Lillico, class of 2026 from Grove City, Ohio, and Tyshaun Witherspoon, class of 2027 from Columbia, South Carolina.

Cindy Holbrook
Cindy Holbrook
Senior Communications Assistant

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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