Multicultural Student Services Center
13th Annual Graduation Celebration
Thursday, May 13th at 11:00 AM
Friends, family, faculty, staff, alumni, allies, community partners, campus life partners, and members of the “Multicultural Class of 2021” are invited to join us for the MSSC Graduation Celebration 2021 via livestream and social media on Thursday, May 13, 2021 at 11:00 a.m.
The Graduation Celebration video will be available for live viewing via the hyperlink below at 11:00 am EST on Thursday and then can be re-watched any time after the completion of the program. For viewers in countries that restrict access to YouTube, we are also hosting the video through a GW-based hosting service (more info to come). If you have any problems accessing the video, please contact our office at [email protected]. We will return your email as soon as possible.
To register as a graduate, please complete our 2021 Graduate Registration and Participation Form. Registered graduates will have their name and distinctions highlighted as part of the ceremony and will be entered to potentially receive the MSSC Graduation Celebration Challenge Coin/Medallion or the MSSC Graduation Celebration Diversity Cord. To RVSP as a family member, friend, faculty member, staff member, or alumnus, please complete our Non-Graduate Invitation / RSVP Form. Non-graduates who RSVP in advance will receive the link to the ceremony a day before it goes live here.
01:28 National Anthem by Brittney Boakye
04:20 Invocation by Timothy Kane
05:24 President Thomas J. LeBlanc
06:56 Provost M. Brian Blake
08:34 Vice Provost for ODECE Caroline Laguerre-Brown
11:42 Occasion by Michael Tapscott
19:50 Community Leader Awards
19:56 APIA Community Leader: Nina Mellor
21:54 South Asian Community Leader: Vishal Nyayapathi
24:15 Interfaith Community Leader: Anjali Patel
27:05 LGBTQIA+ Community Leader: Esperanza Ortega-Tapia
30:53 Latinx Community Leader: AP Velasco
34:35 Black Community Leader: Autumn Thompson
37:00 Martin Luther King Jr. Award by Naseem Haamid
42:38 GW Alumni Association Connection by Chris Hooten
44:06 Commitment to Service by Jovanni Mahonez, Asst. Director of the Nashman Center
44:41 Charge by Michael Tapscott
47:38 Benediction by Timothy Kane
49:21 Recessional / Senior Slideshow
53:48 Reading of 2021 Graduates
Congratulations to our Multicultural Class of 2021!
One of the most joyful aspects of our work in the Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC) is the opportunity to contribute to building a culturally intelligent university community that is as "woke" as it is morally centered. We have seen growth in the number of students who strive to embrace the uncommonly positive values we associate with diversity and inclusion. Thank you for allowing us to join you on your journey over the past four years. Commencement marks a kind of "first day" of the rest of your life milestone, one significant step during a multistage journey that, with all that you have experienced here, will take you to the places that you have always dreamed of.
Members of the Multicultural Student Community, you have developed the academic and intellectual skills that every university graduate does. However, you need to recognize that you brought your own, unique cultural expression and insight to many of your peers. Many of you decided to share your diverse life experience with others. Some of you decided not to, standing firmly by the reasonable belief that it is not your job to educate others on fundamental aspects of diversity and inclusion that, perhaps, informed people should already know. Many of you share your culture and identity with passionate ease by merely being present. The resource you share is cultural education, and the methodology is experiential learning. Defined by a process in which you have "developed skills, values, and direct experiences outside of the traditional academic setting," your presence on campus contributed to the readiness of your peers for an increasingly diverse world outside of the GW bubble. The other gift that comes with cultural education is your personal development around your primary, secondary, and tertiary identities.
Multicultural students experience diversity and inclusion uniquely. There are days when you live with an active and constant awareness of your identity and differences, and of course, there are days when you do not. One of the expressions we hear so often about the Multicultural Student Services Center is that we live with the full breadth and range of our campus diversity every single day. Every imaginable background, race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, ability, nationality, age, socio-economic status visits that building daily, providing influential touchpoints and connections that you reflect in social exchanges throughout campus.
Developing cultural competency and awareness is one of the many end goals of an excellent undergraduate university experience shaping one's ability to navigate a broad range of identities as defined by our national dialogue around difference. However, an even more important skill you have developed through your GW experience is called cultural "intelligence," a five-stage escalating trajectory of development that prepares you for diversity in a more global society.
The dynamics of complex global cultures magnify the challenges around managing race and difference in an American context. During your time at GW, you have strengthened the "drive, knowledge, strategy, and action" associated with cultural intelligence that allows you to engage difference seamlessly, effectively, with comfort, ease, and confidence. Wherever your career may take you in the world, you can walk into any setting inspired and prepared for cross-cultural excellence. Cultural Intelligence (CI) drive defines your motivation to be successful and effective. CI knowledge describes the experiences you have collected here. CI strategy establishes the capacity to take that knowledge and apply it. CI action represents its seamless, noncognitive application in everyday interactions.
We hope that your experience in the world of work mirrors your best experiences around diversity and inclusion at GW, and in that grand old building at 2127 G Street, North-West. DC. We are confident that you have grown significantly around cultural education, diversity, and inclusion. More importantly, we hope you have grown together as a class, as a community, and as a family, anchored by the MSSC and the George Washington University experience. This growing partnership is a lifelong endeavor, and the MSSC family is thrilled to join you on the journey and play one small part in your celebration today. "ENTHUSIASM!"
Michael Tapscott, Timothy Kane, Renea Williams, Cassandra Allen, Lauren Crisp, and Wren O'Kelley
Multicultural Student Services Center
The George Washington University
Thomas J. LeBlanc
Thomas J. LeBlanc is the 17th president of the George Washington University, the largest institution of higher education in Washington, D.C. Dr. LeBlanc leads a preeminent academic and research enterprise with 10 schools and colleges, more than 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students and thousands of faculty and staff across three campuses in the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Dr. LeBlanc has focused efforts on enhancing GW's student experience, research, philanthropy and constituent engagement, medical enterprise and institutional culture. The university is now building on this progress to advance GW toward its aspiration for preeminence as a comprehensive, global research university, leading it to its bicentennial and beyond.
Prior to GW, Dr. LeBlanc was executive vice president and provost at the University of Miami and previously served as dean in the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering at the University of Rochester.
M. Brian Blake
As Provost and Executive Vice President of The George Washington University, M. Brian Blake oversees the academic mission of the institution, supporting all academic endeavors and overseeing the research enterprise across the university’s 10 schools and colleges.
Provost Blake’s research focuses on internet computing and software engineering, particularly for software systems that span enterprise systems. He has authored more than 200 papers and advised more than 15 PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. He has held distinguished professor positions in the Departments of Computer Science and Electrical & Computer Engineering, with joint appointments in various Colleges of Medicine. He served on five National Academies studies and on the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate. He has served as Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Internet Computing and has been funded by more than $12 million in sponsored research. Provost Blake is an ACM Distinguished Scientist, IEEE Golden Core Member, and Governor of the IEEE Computer Society.
Provost Blake has a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Mercer University, and PhD in Information and Software Engineering from George Mason University. Provost Blake and his wife, Bridget, also a Georgia Tech Engineer and MBA from Johns Hopkins, have two sons.
Dean M.L. “Cissy” Petty, Ph.D. provides leadership over areas including student conduct, student health and well-being, campus living and residential education, fraternity and sorority life, student organizations and leadership development, military and veteran student support, and on-campus student programming.
Recognized nationally as a thought leader in student affairs, Dean Petty has taught courses on leadership development and counseling at the graduate and undergraduate levels and has presented extensively. She has held numerous leadership roles in professional organizations, including the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). NASPA’s Foundation awarded her the Pillar of the Profession award in 2014, their highest peer recognition for outstanding leadership in the profession.
She currently serves on the NASPA Foundation Board of Directors and on the editorial board of the Journal of Student Affairs and Research Practice. Her presentations are numerous on the national level regarding higher education administration and student development program implementation. She consults with a variety of non-profit leaders in education, business, and hospital administration.
Dean Petty’s undergraduate and graduate degrees are from Florida State University. Dean Petty was selected for a prestigious post-doctoral fellowship as the Distinguished Scholar in Counseling at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro; selected for Harvard University’s Senior Institutional Management Program; completed her professional leadership coaching certification from Georgetown University; and completed a two-year certificate course in Spiritual Studies from St. Thomas University.
Caroline Laguerre-Brown serves as the Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement. Caroline directs GW’s efforts to advance diversity and inclusion throughout the university and oversees the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, the Office of Disability Support Services, the Multicultural Student Services Center and the Title IX Office.
Prior to joining the George Washington University in August 2016, Caroline previously served as the Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer at Johns Hopkins University where she developed their first university-wide sexual harassment prevention training initiative, spearheaded unconscious bias training for faculty search committees, launched a Race in America speaker series and co-developed a comprehensive faculty diversity initiative. Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, she held positions as labor and employment defense counsel for the New York City Transit Authority and as assistant director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office for the Fire Department of New York. She also served as staff counsel to the Equal Employment Advisory Council in Washington, D.C.
Chris Hooten (He/They) serves as the Associate Director of Alumni Engagement within the GW Office of Alumni Relations. Chris is an experienced educator and collegiate administrator who specializes in volunteer management, youth development, diversity and inclusion, and public relations. Throughout their career, they have worked to amplify the voices of community members from historically marginalized communities to promote cross-cultural understanding and the establishment of inclusive cultures within education and nonprofit organizations.
By applying models of organizational change and cross-cultural, critical, and dis/ability frameworks they have developed environments, cultures, and practices that facilitate connection and positive engagement for all organization members.
Jovanni Mahonez serves as the Assistant Director of the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service at the George Washington University. She oversees co-curricular and immersion community engagement programs, social innovation programs and funding, student leadership and training initiatives, and evaluation and assessment efforts. Jovanni is passionate about community engagement, social change, and equity and how community engagement intersects with equity and inclusion work.
She has been at GW since 2008 in various roles and serves on the annual Diversity Summit committee and chairs the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Week committee. Jovanni earned her bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Hood College and her master’s degree in Higher Education Administration at GW. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Business Administration at GW.
Our Anthem Singer
Brittney Boakye, graduating with her MPH in Epidemiology from the Milken Institute of Public Health was born and raised in the DMV region. Brittney’s previous experience working in clinical settings, and passion for health equity and preventive healthcare drove her to pursue the field of epidemiology. Her interests are in chronic disease, nutrition and the environment and how these particularly impact women and children while other interests include clinical research and regulatory health.
Brittney is currently a member of the American College of Epidemiology, and the American Public Health Association where she serves as the Student Liaison for the Epidemiology Section. As a full-time Student Trainee in the Scientific Advancement Branch at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Brittney currently assists senior program managers on Patient-Centered Outcomes Research, and Precision Medicine Initiative portfolios. Following graduation, Brittney plans to continue her career in public service. When not studying the latest disease trends, Brittney can be found singing, baking, or reading a great book.
Invocation & Benediction Speaker
Timothy Kane is MSSC Associate Director for Inclusion Initiatives. Timothy received his Bachelors of Arts from Hamilton College, his Masters of Divinity from Harvard University, and his Masters of Theology in Justice and Peace Studies from Maryknoll School of Theology. As a certified instructor of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Timothy also holds a Certificate in International Development from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a Graduate Certificate in HIV/AIDS Studies from the GW School of Public Health and Health Services, a Graduate Certificate in International Education from the GW School of Education and Human Development, and a Graduate Certificate in Islamic Studies from the GW Department of Religion.
Student Leader Award Winners
Nina Mellor is a graduating senior in Anthropology and Chinese Language and Literature at GW. She currently serves as the Vice President of the Asian American Student Association. Enrolled in the combined BA/MA program, she will enter her fifth year at GW as an Anthropology graduate student. In her research, Mellor is interested in transracial and transnational Asian adoptee identity formation in the present Asian American diaspora.
Vishal Nyayapathi is a graduating senior in anthropology and the University Honors Program interested in sound political ecology and the internet. This past year, he organized events as the South Asian Heritage Celebration Chair for the GW South Asian Society. Later this fall, he will continue his academic career as a PhD student at Cornell University’s Department of Science & Technology Studies.
Anjali has majored in International Affairs and has been involved in the interfaith community and in No Lost Generation GW, a refugee advocacy organization on campus. A lot of her professional experiences has entailed media and communications for international development and relief organizations. She enjoys painting, drawing, and spending time with friends and family.
Esperanza (or Espie) is graduating senior double majoring in American Studies and Geography from New Mexico, from from Mexico. They are the founder and current President of Queer and Trans Person of Color Association, and the co-producer of Balance’s Spring Show ~Connection~. Esperanza plans to pursue their MS in Geography with a focus on reimagining the urban landscape.
Ana Paula "AP" is a graduating senior from the Elliott School of International Affairs. She is receiving a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict Resolution and a minor in Film Studies. While at GW, she served as the Leadership, Ethics, and Practice Committee Film Lead as well as a Research Fellow for the Gender Equality Initiative in International Affairs in Elliott. Over her years in GW, Ana Paula has also served as the Content Director for TEDxFoggyBottom, one of the largest TEDx organizations in the country and the world, and was a two time resident of Casa Blanca – GW’s Latinx affinity. Outside of GW, she spent time as a Business Fellow at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Communications Intern for Dr. Jill Biden on the Biden for President Campaign, a Legislative Intern on the Hill, and a Program and Advocacy Assistant at Issue One. Ana Paula will be moving to Seattle after graduation, where she will split her time between attending the Lyndon B Johnson Women’s Campaign School from the University of Texas and serving as a Board of Director for the Advancing Latinas Into Leadership Mentorship Program.
Autumn is a graduating senior from Atlanta, Georgia earning her Bachelor's in Political Science. Autumn has been involved in the GW community since coming in as a freshman in 2017. She was a member of the GW Cheer Team for two years, where she served as the Community Service Chair. In her junior year, she joined the executive board of the Black Student Union as Director of Community Service and, simultaneously, served as the social media chair for the Black Girl Mentorship Program. In her senior year, Autumn served as Vice President and Social Media Chair of the Black Girl Mentorship Program. During her time in these roles, she coordinated the donation of over 400 items to N Street Village, donated hundreds of dollars to Children’s National Hospital, and assisted in the creation of the Black Girl Mentorship Empowerment Fund, which raised over $2,500 for students in need during the Covid-19 crisis. Autumn is also a regular volunteer at Miriam's Kitchen. Upon graduation, she will be working full-time at an investment banking firm in Mclean, VA, as well as continuing to complete courses for her Master of Public Administration from GW in the fall of 2021.
Martin Luther King Jr. Award
Naseem Haamid is a senior majoring in Political Science from the Bronx, NY. During his time at GW, he has taken on active roles in leadership; he has served as President of the Kappa Chi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Vice President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Vice President of the Black Men’s Initiative, and was a Resident Advisor. Haamid currently serves as the President of the Undergraduate Chapter of the Black Pre-Law Association, generating opportunities to engage with events on the admissions process, hosting LSAT diagnostics, and creating opportunities to meet legal professionals and law school students. Haamid has a passion for public service and law; he currently serves as a Community Organizer at Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, a community-based organization in the Bronx, NY, creating programming to engage Bronx youth to educate them on civics, community organizing, and local politics to develop the ability to advocate on issues. Upon graduation, Haamid plans to attend law school in Fall 2021.
Hail Alma Mater
To thy spirit guiding,
Knowledge thy closest friend
In its strength abiding,
Pledge we fidelity
Ne'er its place resigning,
Hail thee George Washington!