UB to hold various recognition ceremonies for graduation

Four ceremonies aim to enhance the commencement experience


Haniyyah Bashir said she has struggled to find a “safe space” at UB as a Native American student. She said although this is a constant struggle, she found that safe space while performing with the UB Step Troupe.

Bashir, who is in her final year of graduate school for a degree in higher education and administration program, will be facilitating the ALANA Celebration of Achievement in addition to the graduate school of education ceremony.

UB will hold four different recognition ceremonies for graduating students including the Veteran and Military Recognition Ceremony, the ALANA (African-American, Latino, Asian and Native American) Celebration of Achievement, Lavender Reception (LGBT) and the University Honors College celebration. These ceremonies are in addition to the seventeen-degree conferral ceremonies.

Micah Oliver, a senior business major, said diversity takes on a different feeling and look in every setting. He said he feels UB has made an effort to embrace the challenges diversity brings by having multiple ceremonies for different groups.

“The university is learning to have uncomfortable and difficult conversations—it's a great time to be actively involved in the UB community,” Oliver said in an email.

Oliver said the ALANA ceremony is an “uplifting kick-off to the larger undergraduate commencement ceremonies.”

He will be participating in the ALANA Celebration as well as the undergraduate commencement ceremonies of the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Management.

Most students who attend one of the recognition ceremonies also attend a degree conferral ceremony, according to Terri Budek, associate director of the Intercultural & Diversity Center and coordinator of the ALANA celebration.

“I think the population of ALANA students typically has different stories on how they got to college,” Budek said. “We know students traditionally who are underrepresented have to overcome barriers that other folks who are of the majority don’t have to think about.”

She said it’s important to recognize the accomplishments of these students and the ceremony is a way to connect underrepresented students to appreciate UB’s diverse student population, she said.

Budek said this celebration will include any and all graduating students at UB who advocate for the principles of diversity. She said this is what makes the celebration at UB more unique.

The ALANA Celebration will be held on May 13 in Slee Hall and it will be the 20th anniversary. Budek said in past years roughly 275 students registered, but this year they have hit an “all-time high” with 460 students registering. Budek said there might be fewer students because of exam conflicts and she expects 350 to 400 students to attend.

Oliver said the ALANA celebration is an “excellent” way to celebrate diversity.

Oliver and Bashir both said the online registration for the ALANA Celebration was simple.

Budek is hoping to do more ALANA programming throughout the school year. She said the celebration is the only event that currently brings everyone together in this capacity.

Other ceremonies include the Veteran and Military Recognition Ceremony, which will take place on May 4 in Allen Hall.

Last year was the first annual ceremony with 10 students in attendance. This year 15 students are estimated to attend. Red, white and blue honor cords will be distributed to wear at each student’s commencement ceremonies, according to Daniel Ryan, director of Veteran Services.

There will also be a ceremony for graduating students in the University Honors College on May 13. This ceremony is by invitation only.

The 10th Annual Lavender Reception hosted by the Intercultural Diversity Center and Wellness Education Services will take place on May 6 in 145 Student Union.

The reception will acknowledge the accomplishments of graduating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students, according to James Bowman, LGBTQ Wellness and Special Projects coordinator.

Dr. Ronni Sanlo facilitated the first Lavender Graduation celebration 21 years ago at the University of Michigan. In 2007 a group of staff, faculty and students hosted the first ceremony at UB, according to Bowman.

Bowman said UB is “one of many higher education institutions in the U.S.” that hold LGBTQ graduation celebrations.

“Recognizing the challenges that LGBTQ students face on their journey to graduation, this celebration provides a positive last experience for our LGBTQ and ally students at our institution,” Bowman said in an email.

He said this ceremony is one of many celebrations happening to recognize a variety of different constituency groups, both in terms of academics and identities.

Twenty students have registered as of April 29 and this number is twice as many as in years past, according to Bowman.

Bowman said the ceremony allows for students to share personal stories about their personal and academic successes, such as pivotal moments in their educational careers.

“The stories they share make us smile, laugh, [cry] and understand the important role community has in support our achievements,” Bowman said.

Oliver said UB has provided him with innumerable opportunities to express himself and his culture. He said he has an overall positive experience as an African American student at UB. He said he has been challenged to expand his “cultural niche.”

“I think college is the best time to be intentional about making yourself uncomfortable,” Oliver said. “When I meet challenges concerning culture, there are resources that are here to help me understand that and package that as a learning experience that can positively impact me presently, and in the future.”

Hannah Stein is the asst. news editor and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com