Virtual Transform Convocation 2020


The opening bars of the “Pomp and Circumstance March” are played on kazoo.

Hey cool graduates: I’m Kathryn Stockton, Dean of the School for Cultural and Social Transformation. We’re just here to say: You’re done! You’ve done it! You’ve even made history! No other students at this University, let me assure you, have graduated under these conditions. That’s big. That’s righteous. That’s mighty fierce of you. Cyber-ferocity, cyber-fabulosity, is yours to claim. So do a little dance. Run your fingers through your hair. Pat your bald top. We celebrate you!

Actually, we’re amazed by you. We have watched you, over these years. What a privilege that’s been. Your words have come inside us. Your ideas are in our flesh. And you’ve fleshed out what a barrier is, by trusting us to hear all that you’ve confronted in the realms of racism, unequal finances, trans-and-homo-phobia; ableism, sexism, extreme xenophobia. I could go on. Abstract forces are laden with sensations when we think with you. 

Now, you’ve heard me say how much we miss you. We so do. It’s been brutal without your physical presence. And now we’re really going to miss you, because you’re moving on. And I can’t believe that I’m not going to see you when I cross through the lounge to go to my office. I won’t be able to stop and hear what you’re learning and just connect to you, which has meant so much to me. That’s a hard thought to bear. But we do need you to emerge more fully into this world at this moment. And bring with you the thing you’ve gained: I’m going to call it barbed hope. (Not barbed wire, but barbed hope.) That is to say: Not sloppy hope. Not the hope of platitudes. Barbed hope. Informed hope.

This virus is a strange informant. It tells us what we know—what you know. That hope for a cure must contend with anti-blackness, or it’s no cure at all. That the deaths we’re seeing for black and brown folks and American Indians—I mean, look what’s happening to Navajo nation – the underrepresented are overrepresented in viral deaths— and this is not a matter of identity politics. You would call these structural inequalities. I know you would.

You would say: If there’s to be hope for global healing, we must battle income inequality, since it is literally making us sick. At each and every turn in the story of this virus, there is income inequality. Oh, how the virus has informed us of that—and you have words for it. You will have ideas that are spilling into actions.  

I have such hope for your informed hope. Your barbed hope.

We celebrate you! So now, here are words from our Transform team….

ELIZABETH ARCHULETA: Hi, I’m Elizabeth Archuleta, the Associate Chair of Ethnic Studies, sending you a big congratulations! Right now, I want you to take your arms, and wrap them around yourself, and squeeze tight, because that’s what I’d be doing if this was taking place in person – I’d be giving you a hug. You’re living through unprecedented times, and science isn’t the only cure for what’s happening. You leave here with knowledge about the way already existing inequalities have been made more clear by the pandemic, because people of color are dying at higher rates. So, I know you’ll use this knowledge to go out and make the world a better place. Peace.

KIM HACKFORD-PEER: Hello everybody. I’m Kim Hackford-Peer and I’m the Associate Chair of Gender Studies. I want you to know that I am proud of you. And I’m looking forward to updates about what you’re doing and where you’re going, for years to come. More than anything though, I’m grateful to you, for all that you’ve taught me, for the laughter and joy you’ve brought to my classrooms, my office, my life, and for the trust you put into me as we’ve taken this journey together. Congratulations on all that you’ve accomplished so far – I’ll see you in December!

EDMUND FONG: Ethnic Studies Graduating Class of 2020: My name is Edmund Fong and as Chair of the Division of Ethnic Studies I salute each and every one of you! In these times, I am, too, deeply saddened I cannot directly bear witness to your truth nor feel the power of your presence. But I know – following the likes of Frederick Douglass and James Baldwin, Sojourner Truth and Audre Lorde – that the light of your intelligence will come from how you trouble the world around you, that the evidence of your being will shine forth as you sternly dispute the ground you occupy. I hope we have been able to enliven these for you in your time here and I look forward to the ways you will transform the world around you. We all will dearly miss you, all the more because we need you – more than ever before – to imagine otherwise. Congratulations, Ethnic Studies Graduating Class of 2020!

SUSIE PORTER: I’m Susie Porter, Chair of the Gender Studies Division. Hooray for you, graduates! Stay committed to your dreams, stay flexible in your approach. And as Dolores Huerta says: Si se puede!

ANGELA SMITH: I’m Angela Smith, associate professor in Gender Studies and director of Disability Studies. I’d like to send out a huge congratulations to all of our Transform graduates: your hard work, struggle, and perseverance has brought you to this moment and you genuinely deserve to celebrate and be celebrated. I’d also like to give a shout-out to our fabulous Disability Studies minors, some of whom come from within Transform, and some of whom come to us from other colleges. That move outside of the bounds of your majors and your home disciplines is a real act of curiosity, exploration, and courage, and for that, you, too, deserve to be congratulated and celebrated!

CLAUDIA GEIST: Hi, I’m Claudia Geist. I’m the Associate Dean for Research in Transform, and, again, congratulations! You are awesome, even on the days that you don’t feel awesome. And, we all hear about the intense need for research, but don’t forget, what we really need is also the expertise from Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, and Disability Studies, because without the insights from research that is informed by these approaches, we don’t have a way forward for a better future and to find better responses to future crises. So, you are our hope! Even if you personally may not feel hopeful right now. You are the one who will lead us forward, and we trust you, we believe you, and just keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you for all that you’ve already done and will do in the future.

ESTELA HERNANDEZ: My name is Estela Hernandez and I’m Assistant Dean for the School. Class of 2020: We are SO proud of you! Look for something in the mail from us in the next couple of weeks. We will also be in touch very soon about your December convocation so that we may properly celebrate you. Congratulations!

JEN WOZAB: My name is Jen Wozab, the Transform academic advisor, and I want to say, “YOU DID IT!” You have worked so incredibly hard to get to this moment! And I have worked with many of you for the past two, three, four years, and I’m so incredibly proud of you. And every semester that I worked with you, you felt like it was so hard, to get to the end, and this semester has been incredibly challenging, but you did it! You can get through hard things, you can face the challenges ahead of you, and I know that our Class of 2020 is going to change the world. We look forward to seeing you in December when we can dance, high five, hug, and cheer you on in person as you cross that stage. Congrats, Class of 2020!!

KATHRYN STOCKTON: Okay, team, at the count of three: one, two, three! [Cue throwing of confetti and celebratory noises.]

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Class of 2020

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Amanda Carrasco smiling in front of the block u statue on campus

Amanda Carrasco
she, her, hers

Honors BA, Ethnic Studies
BA, Sociology

I will attend UCLA to pursue a Master’s degree in Higher Education & Organizational Change in the Fall of 2020. Ultimately, I aim to pursue a PhD in Higher Education to become a researcher and faculty member who teaches through a critical race lens.

One of the biggest tools for success that I have found to be effective is finding a community on campus where you feel welcomed and valued. There are a lot of different student organizations and resource centers that cater to different student needs. Through my involvement on campus, I was able to surround myself with supportive mentors and peers that care about me as a person and have helped me navigate higher education. Finding my community and family on campus has tremendously enhanced my undergraduate career and I will carry this experience with me into my future work.

Jenny Hobbs

Jenny Hobbs
she, her, hers

BA, Ethnic Studies

My hope is to create a more inclusive society by creating equity and using education as a tool for personal enlightenment.

My advice: Remember that school is a small part of your life. Don’t stress out and don’t let others pressure you about trivial things. Follow your unique path, always believe in yourself, and be kind.

Mars Jacobsen

Mars Jacobsen
they, he, she

BS, Gender Studies
Computer Science Minor

After I graduate, I want to use my degree to change the world.

To those reading this that are currently or soon-to-be in college: reach out more than necessary. To your professors, your peers, everyone. Even if it doesn’t lead anywhere. And don’t wait to start, either. No “maybe next semester”. Imagine you’re looking back at your college years. What do you want to remember happening during that time? What accomplishments would you like to congratulate yourself on? Build a future free of I-wish-I-would-haves.

Jocelyne Lopez

Jocelyne Lopez
she, her, hers

BA, Ethnic Studies
BA, Psychology

I am planning to go to grad school.

Education is what you make of it. Don’t limit yourself and keep going.

Christine Martinez

Christine Workman
she, her, hers

BS, Ethnic Studies
BS, Sociology

I am planning on attending graduate school here at the U in School Counseling. I would say that my best advice would be to try new things, even if they are unfamiliar and hard.

Naserian Montet smiling in her graduation regalia

Naserian Montet
she, her, hers

BS, Gender Studies
BS, Political Science

I want to thank my American mama Ellen Brady and Leon Hammond, my college professors, my academic advisors and everybody that supported me throughout my college life. I am planning on going to grad school to pursue an MPA.

My advice to incoming and current students is to never give up, keep pushing, don’t let stress kill your motivation. Know where to go and ask for help. Don’t suffer alone because you’re not alone. Don’t forget people that are there for you. Be grateful. Life is too short.

Emily Nachtweih smiling

Emily Nachtweih
she, her, hers

BS, Health Society & Policy
BS, Political Science
Disability Studies Minor

I am going to graduate school for a Masters of Science in Healthcare Administration at the University of Utah starting Fall 2020!

What you put into your degree is what you will get out of it. The University of Utah provides so many opportunities to get involved on campus and grow in your academic and professional development, take advantage of them!

Christina Souknarong laughing

Christina Souknarong
she, her, hers

BS, Ethnic Studies

I am going to be attending UVU for my Masters in Education with an emphasis in Higher Education.

My advice: Take on the U by it’s reigns, challenge yourself and challenge the spaces you’re in. You only get to do your undergraduate journey once so live it up, find that community and be the change you want to see transformed.

Christina Souknarong laughing

Mandy Tran
she, her, hers

BS, Ethnic Studies
BS; Family, Community & Human Development
Psychology Minor

After graduation, I will be starting my graduate career in School Counseling and of course finding a full time job with benefits!

For those of you in higher education, I’m so glad and proud of you that you are here! This is a big step into your journey to find what you want to do, whether it be for a career or for your personal gains. Remember that it is ok to not know what you want to do. It take time. Use these years to learn what you like, what you’re passionate about, and what makes you happy, whether it be exploring virtually or in person. Along this journey it is important to have self compassion as you will learn so much about yourself during these times, from all the lows to all the highs. Remember to take care of yourself, hold space, make space. You are here and we are here for you. I’ll be rooting for you!

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