Lavender Graduation: Then and Now

Belltower with NC flag on right

NC State Belltower, Fall 2010

2015 Lavender Graduation certificate and rainbow tasselOn Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. in the Talley Coastal Ballroom, the GLBT Center will host its annual Lavender Graduation ceremony for 2015 GLBT graduates. As we prepare to recognize the accomplishments of our students, it is helpful to pause to reflect on the history of Lavender Graduation, an event currently held on campuses across the country.

The idea for Lavender Graduation originated at the University of Michigan in the 1990s. At the time, Dr. Ronni Sanlo was serving as the Director of their LGBT Campus Resource Center. Her work providing support services to GLBT-identified students prompted her realization that these students should be recognized “not only for their achievements but for surviving their college years” (Sanlo, 2000). The first Lavender Graduation, hosted by Sanlo in 1995, was designed to create a space for GLBT students to feel supported by the university and affirmed in their identities.

Today, Lavender Graduation ceremonies are hosted by colleges and universities across the United States. Each campus designs its own event, thereby creating its own culture around this annual celebration. Here at NC State, Lavender Graduation has previously been a formal event, with both participants and university personnel donning their regalia as families watch from their seats as their graduates are called forward to be honored. The tradition here at NC State has been to host this event after finals are over, with the event allowing the graduates to come together for this small community celebration just before the massive graduation ceremony at commencement.

This year, the GLBT Center is re-envisioning Lavender Graduation in a number of ways. One of the biggest changes is the timing of the event, which will be held during the last week of classes this year. The idea behind this change is to allow Lavender Graduation to serve as a space for the entire GLBT community, as well as its allies, to come together to celebrate. Hosting the ceremony before finals will allow returning GLBT students to attend, to be there to support their graduating friends, and to see Lavender Graduation as an important annual event for the entire GLBT community. The GLBT Center invites all GLBT students, staff and faculty, as well as all of our allies across campus, to attend this year’s ceremony.

Another significant change is that this year’s ceremony will be less formalized. Dress for the event is business casual, and the layout will be in round tables to enable graduates and other attendees to connect, converse and celebrate together. Overall, the GLBT Center hopes these changes will help to create a space for students to see and feel the support that exists, both institutionally as well as from members of their own community. Faculty and staff are invited to show their support by attending the event. Graduating students can register through today.

Renee Wells is director of the GLBT Center at NC State. See the GLBT Center website for more information about its programs and services.

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