The University’s main event for the Class of 2023 may be in Kenan Stadium on Sunday morning, but graduates, joined by University leaders, spent the past several weeks leading up to the ceremony celebrating at graduations hosted by campus organizations.
The Carolina Covenant kicked off the celebrations April 26 by celebrating the scholarship program’s 510 graduating seniors at its end-of-the-year banquet. Joined by mentors and friends, the Class of 2023 Covenant Scholars were honored at the dinner by receiving a Carolina Blue and white graduation cord for their regalia.
Carolina’s LGTBQ Center honored its 40 graduating Tar Heels on May 7 with a ceremony that featured keynote speaker Janora McDuffie — a Durham native and actress who voiced the 94th Academy Awards. The graduates were joined by members of the Carolina Pride Alumni Network for the celebration.
On May 8, the Black Student Movement and Carolina Black Caucus hosted a ceremony to recognize graduating Black students’ achievements at UNC-Chapel Hill. The ceremony, held at the School of Social Work, is named Umoja, the Swahili word for “unity.” The graduates received red, green and yellow stoles to wear to Commencement.
The graduates were joined by Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Leah Cox and keynote speaker Ronda Taylor-Bullock, a triple Tar Heel and co-founder of “We Are,” a nonprofit organization that provides anti-racism training.
“Please remember, you’re not only the future. You’re the present,” Cox said. “You are succeeding. You are making us proud. You are changing the world, so keep changing the world and making us proud.”
Taylor-Bullock ’04, ’05 (MA), ’18 (Ph.D.) taught in the Durham County Public School System for nine years before returning to Chapel Hill to earn her doctorate. She then founded “We Are” in Durham and serves as its executive director and lead curator. The alumna urged the graduating class to bring their unique perspective and experiences at Carolina to their next step in life.
“We need you, Black graduates, and all of the intellect and all of the ideas that you bring,” said Taylor-Bullock. “We need your representation and your lived experiences because that’s knowledge that other people don’t have — your unique story. The world is not ready for you, but ready or not, here you come.”
The American Indian Center celebrated its graduates May 11. The ceremony included a traditional voice performance for students to help celebrate the completion of their degrees. They were welcomed by the American Indian Center Director Danielle Hiraldo, Executive Vice Provost Amy Locklear Hertel and Vice Provost for Academic and Community Engagement Joseph Jordan, who all congratulated the Tar Heels for their success and impact at Carolina.
“It’s a good time to be indigenous at Carolina. Community is critical. Find ways to give back. And take care of yourself,” Hertel said. “Please know that each of you have left your moccasin print at Carolina and on this campus. Thank you for being part of this community.”
The commencement address was given by Jamison Lowery ’20.
“Your job after you leave here today is to embrace the future and walk with pride in who you are,” Lowery told the graduates.
Later that day, the Carolina Latinx Center’s hosted its annual ¡Éxitos! graduation ceremony, which celebrated the hard work and dedication to the Latinx Tar Heels at Carolina. Over 70 graduating seniors were presented with a special stole to wear at Commencement.
Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz joined the celebration, thanking the students for their contributions and for helping to build a greater Carolina community where everyone’s voice can be heard.
“Each of you have many incredible memories that I hope you’ll look back on and think about your time at Carolina,” he said. “Take Carolina with you. Take the culture. You deserve this moment.”
More than 20 of the University’s veterans and future military officers were recognized May 12 at the Red, White and Carolina Blue Graduation. At the ceremony, the Tar Heels received red, white and blue honor cords to acknowledge their military service and academic success.
The graduates, Guskiewicz said, are primed to be crucial leaders for our state and country.
“As a university of and for the people, we serve the public by preparing the next generation of leaders to solve the grand challenges of our time,” he said. “As graduates, you are entering a world that faces many challenges and potential crises, and the world needs leaders with the character and passion to take on those challenges that we face. You are those leaders.”
Carolina alumnus retired Army Col. Rich Martin echoed that sentiment at the ceremony, urging graduates to continue serving as leaders, either as service members or civilians.
“Your education and your experience will open more opportunities for you to lead in ways that you could have never imagined. Be ready,” Martin said. “You are graduating from a university of the people who are now trusting you to lead them, as well as their sons and daughters.”
That evening, the Buckley Public Service Scholars celebrated its 19th class of scholars during a graduation ceremony at Memorial Hall. Guskiewicz, Jordan and Carolina Center for Public Service Director Lynn Blanchard joined the graduates for the event.
Based out of the Carolina Center for Public Service and funded by the Walter White Buckley Jr. Endowment, the Buckley Public Service Scholars program provides undergraduate students with the framework to engage with local communities through service and connect their academics to giving back.
This graduating class of 154 Buckley Public Service Scholars dedicated a combined 73,870 hours to serving others during their Carolina career. Sixty-five percent of those service hours benefited North Carolina. The scholars received a Carolina blue and white chord to represent their service and academic achievements at graduation.
“The grand challenges of our time can cause many of us to despair. Instead, these students rolled up their sleeves and got to work to be part of solving big problems,” Guskiewicz said. “You epitomize our University’s commitment to working for that public good.”