Lavender Graduation, Donning of the Stoles and Veteran Graduation Celebration

  • Mo Hakala and Audrey Reifler
    Lavender graduates 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
  • Fred Tugas
    Fred Tugas, associate director of Highsmith Union
  • Jill Moffitt
    Jill Moffitt, associate vice chancellor for student affairs
  • Donning of the Stoles graduates
    Donning of the Stoles graduates Kasey Kelly, Christa Mullis, Dee Rojas, Whitney Whitley, and Karmen Kurtz
  • Jeremias Zunguze
    Jeremias Zunguze, assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies, explained the significance of the traditional Kente cloth.
  • Dee Rojas and Luke Givens
    Donning of the Stoles and Veteran Graduate Dee Rojas and Luke Givens, director of multicultural affairs.
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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.