Class of 2023 Lavender Commencement Ceremony
On Saturday, April 29, 2023, students, alumni, faculty, staff, friends, and family gathered to celebrate graduating lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, aromantic, agender and pansexual (LGBTQIAP+) students at the 2023 Lavender Commencement Ceremony, hosted in the Innovation Studio by the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education (ODIME).
Established in 1995 at the University of Michigan by Ronni Sanlo, Ed.D., a Jewish lesbian who was barred from attending the commencement ceremony of her children due to her sexual orientation, the Lavender Graduation Ceremony was implemented at over 45 colleges and universities around the country by 2001, with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) joining in 2019.
Lavender Commencement is a celebration that recognizes LGBTQIAP+ students of all races and ethnicities and acknowledges their achievements and contributions to WPI as students who survived the college experience. Lavender is important to LGBTQ history. It is a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle designating lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany. The LGBTQ civil rights movement took these symbols of hatred and combined them to make symbols and color of pride and community.
The intimate ceremony featured not only addresses by Vanessa Cardaropoli ’23, Former President of the Alliance, affiliate oSTEM Chapter, Oscar Chavez, Advisor for Academic Support, Mia-Kay Fuller, Assistant Director for Gender Equity and Sexuality, Janelle Drake ’11, WPI Alum, and Arnold Lane, Jr., Director of Multicultural Education and Community Engagement, but also a space for students to congratulate and celebrate the accomplishments of themselves and their peers during their time at WPI. The ceremony itself had a friendly, heartfelt flow, offering a welcoming atmosphere that didn’t go unnoticed.
“Lavender Commencement is near and dear to my heart as it is one of the only days where I am surrounded by this many queer people and their supporters. Being surrounded by my community is where I thrive and I hope you all have the opportunity to feel that here today as well.”
-Mia-Kay Fuller (They/Them), Assistant Director for Gender Equity and Sexuality
As part of the ceremony, graduates are either given a rainbow honor cord, lavender honor cord, or a rainbow stole, as well as a WPI rainbow pin. Class of 2023 graduate, Vanessa Cardaropoli, was awarded the Lavender Commencement Student of Distinction award, which honors a student who has made an outstanding effort to create an inclusive environment at WPI through programming, outreach, and leadership for the LGBTQIAP+ community.
Thank you to all who were able to attend the Lavender Commencement ceremony and celebrate our Class of 2023 graduates!
The Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education (ODIME) promotes and oversees all student facing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) learning experiences, programs, services, trainings, and initiatives for WPI.