Multicultural ceremony recognizes student commitment to inclusive and diverse campus
Dozens of soon-to-be graduates, along with proud families and friends, gathered the eve of commencement to celebrate and embrace Radford University's diverse Highlander family.
The Multicultural Congratulatory Ceremony, formerly called Donning of the Kente, is held annually at the end of every academic year to recognize students who have championed Radford University as an inclusive community – one accepting of all races, religions, genders and sexual orientations.
This year's celebration, hosted in Bondurant Auditorium on May 5, featured several student performances. Ernest Knight '17 delivered a powerful speech, titled "The Student Charge," while Briana Davis '17 performed a spoken word called "Impact." India Martin '17 gave the Class of 2017 student address, and sophomore Tanishia Stevenson sang "I Was Here." In addition, 61 students were recognized for their achievements and adorned with stoles to be worn during commencement ceremonies.
Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill congratulated the Class of 2017 and warmly welcomed them to the Radford alumni family.
"After tomorrow's commencement ceremonies, you will most likely be leaving Radford University to make an impact on the nation and world," Hemphill said. "Many of you have already been making an impact here at Radford and in the communities you call home. I urge you to aspire to make an indelible impact. In doing so, engage your skills and your determination, as well as your talents. I also urge you to look at friends, teammates, colleagues and partners to complement your efforts. And to the Class of 2017, let me be the first to welcome you to the Radford University alumni family."
Director of Diversity and Engagement Crasha Townsend recognized students for their work toward making the campus more inclusive, but emphasized there is still progress to be made.
"While I encourage you to celebrate your accomplishments and relish the fact that you are about to become a part of a very privileged group of individuals, please note that come Monday morning, you still have work to do," Townsend said. "Your hard work these past few years has not gone unnoticed. We all know the sacrifices needed to achieve academic success, however, many of us in this room have also dedicated our time, strength and talents to make this university a more inclusive institution."
The ceremony's keynote speaker was alumnus Tyson Beale '99, M.B.A. '02. Beale, of Virginia Beach, currently serves as the North Carolina State Coordinator for the Association of Student Conduct Administration (ASCA) and has served as both assistant and associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and associate dean of University College at Fayetteville State University.
In Beale's address, he explained the meaning of "indelible impact," which was also the title of his keynote address.
"It's leaving an unforgettable, memorable mark within yourself, society, your environment and in others within your scope," Beale said.
"How do you do this? Let me serve as an example."
Beale is a first-generation college student. He shared his academic journey and the struggles he endured to reach success.
"I am a living, breathing example of how a first-generation college student could begin here [Radford University] in 1995 not even being able to distinguish the difference between a bachelor's degree, a master's or doctoral degree. And tonight, I stand before you having accomplished all three," he said.
Beale also offered the graduates advice and encouraged them to stay on track.
"I believe that remaining humble, listening to the ultimate voice and believing in yourself makes the difference," he said. "Certainly, you all are already aware that your destiny awaits you, that your best days are ahead and that your career is calling your name."
Following Beale's address, students were individually bestowed special stoles by their friends and family in recognition of their accomplishments at Radford University.
The annual Multicultural Congratulatory Ceremony was sponsored by the Radford University Center for Diversity and Inclusion.