5 MSI College Graduation Traditions

by Melanie Wolff and Marietess Masulit

Graduation season is upon us, and many MSIs have exciting traditions and ceremonies that come with it. Today’s Monday Morning MSI Line Up features 5 schools that celebrate their alumni and integrate their cultural heritage into the traditions and ceremonies they offer.

1. Spelman College (HBCU): Class Day

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Class Day is a tradition in which the senior class comes together to reflect on their years at Spelman. Following Class Day, the senior class marches through the Alumnae Arch in the campus oval. Past alumnae guide students through the arch, a symbol of leaving the College and going into greater service. As part of the tradition, alumnae and seniors wear white dresses.

2. University of New Mexico (HSI): Raza Graduation Ceremony

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UNM’s El Centro de la Raza (formerly Hispanic Student Services) hosts a graduation ceremony specifically for Latino/a students, called Raza Graduation. It is meant to celebrate the cultural heritage of their students. Students have described the ceremonies as replacing the usual solemnity of graduation with warmth, oriented at families as opposed to just the students. Younger students are also invited as a way of enhancing mentorship and providing student role models.

3. University of Hawaii at Mānoa (AANAPISI): The Gift of Lei

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On the Hawaiian Islands, leis are a congratulatory gesture, worn by the person being honored. This is an integral part of Hawaiian culture, going back centuries. At University of Hawaii at Mānoa, these are given at graduation and on senior night at all athletic events.

4. Morehouse College (HBCU): A Gathering of Men

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During Commencement weekend, the College hosts alumni by class, with many activities planned for those who return. Some events include The Reunion Golf Classic, a National Alumni Association meeting and luncheon, class meetings, parties, and picnics.

5. Oglala Lakota College and other Tribal Colleges (TCUs): Eagle Feathers

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Native students have a beautiful tradition for graduation. Graduates receive their eagle feathers and plumes, and proudly wear them in their graduation caps or hair. As one graduate from Oglala Lakota College wrote, “this is a part of who we are and continues to affirm our identity and connection to our ancestry and culture.”

Stay tuned for next week when we take an in-depth look at the California State University system’s cultural graduation ceremonies!

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