Celebrating graduates’ cultural communities

Get to know the insignia, communities that honor graduating students’ identities, cultures

By Rebecca Kirkman on May 18, 2023

Four cultural stoles laying on white background
These stoles symbolize graduates’ affiliation with Towson University and aspects of their identity and cultural communities and/or affinity groups. (Lauren Castellana/Towson University)

At Towson University’s spring Commencement, many graduating students will wear special stoles showcasing their affiliation and engagement with various groups on campus.

The Center for Student Diversity (CSD) recognizes that engagement with identity-based/affinity communities nurture a sense of belonging. Through a series of programs and celebrations, CSD reaffirms students’ identities and educates the campus community of the relevance of its diversity and inclusive practices.

Most significantly for graduation, CSD uses graduation stoles to symbolize Towson University’s recognition and celebration of the diversity of its students.

As part of this recognition, in the weeks leading up to Commencement CSD holds cultural and identity celebration events to honor graduating students and the communities that supported them throughout their college journeys.

Mature Student Graduation Celebration

The Newcombe and Pathways Scholars’ celebration honors TU’s nontraditional graduating students who are recipients of two scholarships offered through CSD.

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Scholarship supports students 25 years and older who are earning their first bachelor’s degree. The Pathways Scholarship provides financial support for student-parents who have completed an associate degree and are finishing an undergraduate degree.

In addition to scholarship opportunities, CSD offers additional resources through its Mature & Non-Traditional Student Development Program to create a community among these students who have many shared life experiences. CSD supports the Newcombe and Pathways Scholars in navigating the college experience and prepares them for post-baccalaureate academic or professional pursuits through workshops and a peer support group.

Three people pose at celebration with two wearing kente stoles
Keiwana Perryman, center, associate director for student development and diversity, with graduating students at the 2022 Ebony Celebration. (Sam Levitan/Towson University)

Ebony Celebration

Every year the Ebony Celebration is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate graduating seniors. Graduating students receive a kente stole. A woven textile originating in West Africa, kente is worn on special occasions and has become a symbol of achievement and resilience at graduation ceremonies throughout the African diaspora. The woven stole has a black background, red, green and yellow stripes, the Asante stool symbol signifying royalty, and the graduation year.

The African American Student Development Program supports, promotes and enhances the intellectual, academic, social and personal development of African American Students and students from the African Diaspora.

Three people wearing stoles in front of pride flags
Brianna Donaldson-Morton, center, coordinator for sexuality and gender diversity, with graduating students at the Lavender Celebration on May 13. (Lauren Castellana/Towson University)

Lavender Celebration

The Lavender Celebration honors LGBTQIA+ students of all races and ethnicities to acknowledge their academic achievements and contributions to the university.

At the ceremony, graduating students receive a lavender stole with rainbow stripes. Lavender is a reclamation of symbols of hatred from LGBTQIA+ history transformed during the Civil Rights movement into symbols of pride and community. The rainbow stripes signify pride, the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community and the spectrum of sexuality and gender.

The Sexuality and Gender Diversity Student Development Program provides education and resources for a diverse population of students that includes Tigers from various sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions, abilities, races and ethnicities.

APIMEDA Graduation Celebration

This year marks the inaugural Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern and Desi American (APIMEDA) Graduation Celebration at TU. The APIMEDA ceremony recognizes graduates within the APIMEDA community alongside their friends and family.

Graduating students receive a black stole with gold trim, embroidered with the APIMEDA acronym on one side and the TU CSD on the other, to signify their achievements and involvement during college.

The APIMEDA Student Development Program offers programming and activities that focus on creating dialogue and awareness around issues pertaining to the APIMEDA and diaspora communities.

Latine/x Graduation Celebration

In its eighth year, the Latine/x Graduation Celebration honors Latine/x graduates at TU and their communities. At this ceremony, graduates receive a serape stole made of woven material found in many Latin American countries. More than a symbol of graduation, the serape represents graduates’ pride in their culture, empowerment to succeed and ability to overcome obstacles to reach this milestone.
The Latine/x Student Development Program works to recruit, engage, retain and graduate students from Latine/x backgrounds and to ensure their academic, sociocultural, personal and professional success.