Lavender Graduation, Donning of the Stoles and Veteran Graduation Celebration

  • Mo Hakala and Audrey Reifler
  • Fred Tugas
  • Jill Moffitt
  • Donning of the Stoles graduates
  • Jeremias Zunguze
  • Dee Rojas and Luke Givens

UNC Asheville kicked off its Winter Commencement special ceremonies by celebrating the accomplishments of its LGBTQIA graduates at Lavender Graduation on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. Two graduates were honored: Mo Hakala, a health and wellness promotion major, and Audrey Reifler, also a health and wellness promotion major graduating with honors from the Order of Omega. The students received their lavender cords, a significant color in LGBT history, to wear with their graduation gowns at Commencement.

Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Jill Moffitt introduced the graduates and provided background on the origin of the ceremony. The first Lavender Graduation took place in 1995 at the University of Michigan and was created by professor Ronni Sanlo after she was denied access to attend her children's graduations due to her sexual orientation. Associate Director of Highsmith Union Fred Tugas offered the graduates advice on navigating the unique challenges that LGBTQIA people face, and faculty, staff, students, family and friends celebrated with the graduates following the ceremony.

Graduating students, family and friends gathered for the combined Donning of the Stoles and Veteran Student Graduation Celebration on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017 to honor students of diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Five graduates were honored during the program: Kasey Kelly, a sociology major who speaks Australian Sign Language; Karmen Kurtz, an international studies major and active community volunteer; Christa Mullis, an international studies major and founder of UNC Asheville’s Disability Cultural Center; Whitney Whitley, an accounting major who lived briefly in Ghana and is the second in her family to graduate from college; and Dee Rojas, a Spanish major with teacher licensure who is a veteran of the Marine Corps. Friends, mentors and loved ones took turns speaking about the students and congratulating them on their efforts. Veteran graduates Magen Boyd, Hugo Gutierrez and Megan Harris were also honored, although they were unable to attend.