Briana Garcia-Sanchez processes to the tent with her fellow graduates for Eastern Mennonite University's 105th Commencement ceremony. Garcia-Sanchez is a 2023 Cords of Distinction recipient.

EMU’s 105th Commencement celebrates 348 graduates

Eastern Mennonite University awarded 348 total degrees at its 105th Annual Commencement on Sunday, May 7, 2023. The total included 203 undergraduate degrees, 144 master’s degrees, 78 graduate certificates, and one doctorate. Among those were 18 students who received either a degree or certificate from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and 18 graduates of Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

Check out our 2023 Commencement photo galleries of graduation, Lavender Graduation, and the Cords of Distinction and Donning of the Kente ceremonies!

In his Commencement address, Dr. John Lowe ’81 spoke to graduates about the importance of connecting to their purpose. “You each have been given a purpose. During your journey as a student at EMU, your purpose has been challenged, nurtured, come into enlightenment and discovery. Lowe continued in the words of Micah 6:8: “You have committed to ‘do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly’ with your creator, God. Never give up on your purpose. Never stop searching and seeking the truth of your purpose.”

Graduate perspectives were offered by Nardos Haile, Dallas Organek, and Amarea Witt.

Haile, a social work major, BSA executive board member and Cords of Distinction honoree, encouraged the graduating class to “be vulnerable, and be your most authentic self” as well as “to never forget the connections you made here.”

She expressed gratitude to “all the Black women who have served as an inspiration” to her, including Celeste Thomas, Shannon Dycus and Mayor Deanna Reed.

Organek, a business administration and marketing double major, captain of the men’s soccer team and Cords of Distinction honoree, shared that he “quickly learned EMU is a place where you are encouraged to excel both in the classroom and on the field.”

“It was not just the victories and defeats that made my time as a student-athlete at EMU special. It was the sense of community I felt both within the team and across campus,” said Organek.

Witt, who earned a master’s degree in biomedicine, echoed Organek’s comments. “Professors have created an inviting atmosphere both inside and outside the classroom. How often do you get to enjoy s’mores and jump on a trampoline with your classmates in your professor’s backyard or hike a trail to Machu Picchu in Peru?”

Inspired by the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child,” Witt says the “village lasts a lifetime” and that her family village has been expanded by the one built at EMU. “Regardless of what pathways we continue on, our village here will remain,” she said.

Graduate students prepare to be hooded.

President Susan Schultz Huxman presided over the ceremony, and Provost Dr. Fred Kniss commissioned the graduates. The commencement was Kniss’ final one; he will retire at the end of June after serving as provost since 2009.

Check out the 2023 Commencement photo gallery!

Cords of Distinction

Ten graduating seniors are 2023 Cords of Distinction recipients. They were honored in a special ceremony on May 5, 2023, and wore blue and gold cords signifying their achievement during EMU Commencement.

Check out the Cords of Distinction ceremony photo gallery!

Lavender Graduation

CJP graduate Tarini Nagasaila Suresh speaks at the Lavender Graduation.

EMU hosted its second Lavender Graduation on May 6, 2023, to honor LGBTQ+ graduates and alumni. The annual event recognizes LGBTQ students of all races and ethnicities and acknowledges their achievement and contributions to the university.

The program honored 15 graduates and alumni and featured an EMU greeting from Jackie Font-Guzmán, vice president of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; undergraduate and graduate speakers, who shared their stories about being a part of the LGBTQ+ community; and a keynote address from Asha Beck ’22. Font-Guzmán and Professor of Education Kathy Evans presented participants with rainbow stoles to wear during EMU Commencement.

Check out the Lavender Graduation photo gallery!

Donning of the Kente

EMU held its eighth Donning of the Kente ceremony on May 6, 2023, at Lehman Auditorium. The annual event recognizes and rewards achievement; honors those who contributed to the graduate’s success; connects graduates to their heritage and international roots; and encourages them to continue striving for excellence. 

Each graduate received a stole of kente cloth, a symbol of prestige in many African societies, handwoven for each graduate, or a satin sash with flags from the countries they feel a connection with. Among the many countries represented were Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Liberia, the Republic of Korea, and the Philippines.

Cords of Distinction recipient Rayn Robinson receives her stole from her father, Royln Robinson.

Each student selected an individual to place the stole or sash around his or her neck. Many seniors wore the stole at Commencement as an important component of their academic regalia.

Hosts of the ceremony were Shannon Dycus, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, and Micah Shristi, director of international student services. Drummers with Drums for Wellness and Community Inclusion performed musical selections during the processional and recessional of graduates. Brian Martin Burkholder, university chaplain, gave the blessing.

Check out the Donning of the Kente ceremony photo gallery! 

Photos by Jon Styer/At Ease Design & Consulting and The Downtown Creative

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