Lavender and Women and Gender Studies graduation ceremony celebrates LGBTQ+ community

Lavender and Women and Gender Studies graduation ceremony celebrates LGBTQ+ community
Mason’s Vice President for University Life Rose Pascarell delivers powerful opening remarks at Mason’s 2023 Lavender and Women and Gender Studies Graduation

On April 26, the Johnson Center Bistro served as the venue for Mason’s 2023 Lavender and Women and Gender Studies Graduation, an occasion celebrating LGBTQ+ students, allies, and graduates of the Women and Gender Studies (WGST) program. Twenty-five graduates were celebrated for their accomplishments and contributions to Mason’s community. 

Each year, the WGST program and the LGBTQ+ Resources Center collaborate on this event, offering the two units a wonderful opportunity to come together to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of Mason’s LGBTQ+ students, their allies, and WGST grads. 

“This year’s event was a joyful and uplifting celebration of our diversity,” said Anu Aneja, WGST director. “It seemed all the more heartwarming in the light of the struggles for equal rights that still confront women and LGBTQ+ people in the US and globally. This was my second Lav Grad event since I joined Mason, and I loved being a part of the vibrant purple, lavender, and rainbow spectrum that reflects the plural identities of our students, staff, and faculty.” Aneja adds that she was delighted by the support of many of Mason’s senior leadership in attendance. 

Lavender graduation ceremonies originated at the University of Michigan in 1995, and are now held by more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide. Mason’s first Lavender graduation ceremony was celebrated by the LGBTQ+ Resources Center in 2009, and has welcomed the collaboration with WGST since 2015. 

Josh Kinchen, director of the LGBTQ+ Resources Center, said the Lavender and WGST Graduation is always a highlight of the year. “We are so excited about our partnership with Women and Gender Studies to celebrate our best and brightest queer student graduates!” he said, adding, “We appreciated the support of Dean Ardis in providing closing remarks. Onward to another year of student and colleagues' excellence at Mason!" 

Josh Kinchen, director of the LGBTQ+ Resources Center, and Lulu Geza Kelemen (BA in Integrative Studies ’11, MA Sociology ’15), associate director for LGBTQ+ Resources Center, with students honored for their leadership in the LGBTQ+ community (Photo by Sarah Holland)


Holly Mason Badra (MFA '17), associate director of Women and Gender Studies, said the ceremony was a meaningful event full of joy and celebration. “The space was one of warmth, welcome, and affirmation,” she said. “It is an emotional event for many—students, faculty, staff, family, and friends—as many of us find ourselves feeling moved by the sense of belonging and support. I am grateful that spaces and events like this exist to validate LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff existence as well as our contributions to the Mason community.” 

Congratulations to all the students, faculty, and staff who were recognized with awards, including:  

  • Reagan Emmerling (BA in Integrative Studies concentrating in Women and Gender Studies; minors in Criminology and Anthropology) was awarded the Feminist Leadership Award, given to a graduating senior who demonstrates scholarly excellence and activist leadership in the WGST program.  
  • Sarah Holland received the Rose Pascarell and Ric Chollar Professional Service Award, which honors staff and administrative faculty who work to advance the well-being of Mason’s LGBTQ+ community. Holland is a communications officer in the Office of University Branding and also completed a graduate certificate in Folklore Studies at Mason.  
  • Ricardo F. Vivancos-Pérez, associate professor in Modern and Classical Languages and Spanish Program coordinator, received the Dr. David Powers Corwin Scholarship and Teaching Award, which recognizes an instructional faculty whose teaching and/or scholarship centers the experiences of LGBTQ+ people and communities, with a focus on gender and sexuality, and a grounding in queerness, justice, and liberation.