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Penn's cultural centers. Credit: Jesse Zhang

Penn’s cultural centers plan to hold special graduation celebrations through the end of May in honor of graduating students in the Class of 2022.

From a virtual powwow to music performances from student groups, The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke with representatives from the seven cultural centers at Penn to find out how they will be celebrating graduating students from the undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools.

Natives at Penn

Natives at Penn will host a virtual "Honoring the Graduates" ceremony on May 5 from 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.

In the past, the Native community at Penn used to honor the graduates at an annual, in-person powwow in the spring semester, Greenfield Intercultural Center Director Valerie De Cruz told the DP in a written statement.

However, the virtual event offered last year was highly successful, drawing in many alumni and families who otherwise would not have been able to attend, De Cruz wrote, so the event this year will be held virtually.

The celebration will be in collaboration with the Alumni Relations Office, allowing students to connect with members of the Association of Native Alumni, De Cruz added. 

Penn LGBT Center

The LGBT Center will host its eighth annual Lavender Graduation on May 6 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at its building on campus at 39th and Spruce streets.

Each student will be acknowledged individually with their degree, campus involvements, and awards received, Associate Director of the LGBT Center Malik Muhammad said. Rainbow tassels will be distributed to the community, and, for the first time, transgender and nonbinary tassels will also be available.

The center has invited 2000 College graduate Hema Sarang-Sieminski, the policy director at the nonprofit organization Jane Doe, to give a keynote speech. The ceremony will also feature a musical performance by a queer organization on campus. 

“This is an opportunity to highlight and uplift queer folks and allies within our community and to acknowledge all of their competent accomplishments throughout their time here at Penn,” Muhammad said.

Penn Women's Center

At the Penn Women's Center a "Lunch with Seniors" event will be held on May 13 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the PWC Garden, located on Locust Walk.

The celebration will be “very relaxed and casual,” with simple refreshments and treats for the students, PWC Interim Director Elisa Foster said. She said that the celebration is open to everyone — even for students who are not associated with PWC.

“Our mission really is gender equity. So students of all identities and backgrounds are welcome to come and get a purple cord and celebrate with us,” Foster said. 

PWC will also hold an alumni reception for the grand opening of the newly named Class of 1995 Garden on May 14 from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The PWC garden was renovated due to a donation from the Class of 1995's 25th Reunion Class Gift in 2020.

Makuu: The Black Cultural Center

Makuu will host a "Senior Celebration and Awards" event on May 14 at 10:30 a.m. in Cohen Hall Auditorium. It will also have a reception at noon of the same day in the ARCH building.

Director of Makuu and 1993 Engineering graduate Brian Peterson, who also received his master's degree in 1997 and Ph.D. in 2013 from Penn, said that the purpose was to recognize the graduating class and honor seniors nominated for awards by their peers. 

The center will also resume its annual tradition of taking a senior class photo on the Penn Common steps, which has not been able to happen in the past two years due to COVID-19.

“For many of our students, Makuu is a home,” Peterson said. “So we want to be able to take the time out to just say, ‘Thank you,’ and say, ‘We’re proud of you, see you, and good luck in your future.’”

Greenfield Intercultural Center

The GIC will host its "Celebration of Graduates & Alumni Garden Party" ceremony on May 15 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the GIC Patio and in the Lenape Native Garden at 37th and Chestnut streets.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate students, both undergraduate and graduate students within our intercultural communities,” De Cruz wrote to the DP.

The recent graduates will be introduced to members of the GIC’s alumni community.

La Casa Latina

La Casa Latina will host its Raza Graduation ceremony on May 15 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Irvine Auditorium. The event will feature Latinx student, faculty, and alumni speakers.

Director of La Casa Latina Krista Cortes wrote of the “culturally empowering celebration” that the Latinx Graduation represents, in a written statement to the DP. ​The ceremony will be conducted bilingually in English and Spanish to accommodate attendees who are not English dominant, according to Cortes.

For the first time in the ceremony's history, students will be allowed to walk with loved ones during the procession.

“This event also pays homage to the importance of family in the Latinx culture. Students walk across the stage alongside two family members or mentors that have impacted their educational journeys," Cortes wrote.

The following day on May 16, students will be able to continue the celebration at La Casa Latina in the ARCH building from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. for a "Brindis" event.

Pan-Asian American Community House

PAACH will host an "End-of-Year Celebration" on April 27 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the ARCH Building. On May 16, it will also have a "Family & Friends Reception" from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the ARCH Building.

“Our ceremonies are a great opportunity to reflect and celebrate our connections with each other,” Director of PAACH Peter Van Do told the DP in a written statement.

Van Do added that non-graduating students will also be allowed to offer some “heartfelt words of reflection” for the graduating class at the End-of-Year Celebration.

PAACH graduation stoles will be presented to all graduating students in attendance, and there will be a livestream option for anyone who cannot come in person to participate.

“Our diverse PAACH communities contribute to Penn’s culture in such significant ways,” Van Do wrote. “These programs serve as a thank you for all of our students and stakeholders. Further, [they] offer a chance to reflect, honor, and celebrate our collective contributions to Penn.” 

Across the cultural centers, the faculty have worked to make sure their celebrations are successful.

“I work with the other cultural centers to learn from each other about the different celebrations we’re trying to host and to make sure our students feel special,” Peterson said. “It’s really great to have such a strong team.”

Although each cultural center will host separate ceremonies, representatives from the cultural centers share a common goal of celebrating students and their time at Penn. 

“Graduation time is an opportunity to celebrate our cultural communities and highlight their many accomplishments as part of the tapestry of Penn Traditions,” Cortes wrote.