Belonging and community. The two words go hand in hand.
Finding a sense of belonging comes with being a member of a community. Not just any community, of course, but one that is inclusive, collaborative, and trusting.
Virtually addressing the Class of 2020 at the Students of Color Graduation and Black Student sendoff, joined by family, friends, as well as faculty and staff, former classmates Wes Woodson ’20 and Sienzhi Kouemo ’20 reminisced about how they found the sense of belonging in the Babson community, and why this same group contributes hope for the future.
An Esteemed Class
Woodson found the emotion of belonging both in and out of the classroom, recalling how his professors made him feel like the brightest student in the room, and on his time as a member and president of Babson’s Black Student Union, which provided not only a sentiment of purpose, but also family.
“We walk away from Babson, knowing that we didn’t only belong, but we even helped to make it a better place,” Woodson said at the Students of Color Graduation.
Kouemo said his time at Babson afforded him a new outlook on life, as a result of experiences, opportunities, and the people he met at the institution.
“We still live in a world that discriminates based on the color of skin,” Kouemo said at the Black Student sendoff. “I have hope for the future because I’m surrounded by this community.”
“A world pandemic tried to knock you down, and you got up. What could be more inspiring than the stories you got to tell about this year?”
Sadie Burton-Goss, chief diversity & inclusion officer
Both ceremonies, held in the days prior and following degree conferral, acclaimed class accomplishments.
“It’s important to carry on the tradition of celebrating our black students,” said Patrick Hale, director of Multicultural and Identity Programs. “Black students have had to endure a lot, but you’ve certainly persevered, and it’s important we take the time to celebrate you.”
Individual seniors were recognized through personally submitted notes and off-the-cuff shout-outs from family and friends.
Barreling Through Challenges
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Lawrence Ward recalled the Students of Color welcome ceremony at the beginning of the academic year, where he asked incoming students to envision their legacy in 25 or 50 years.
“I hope that they would have said, ‘We were an academic community that was curious, open, inclusive, that we held each other accountable but could also be forgiving,’ ” he said. “Full disclosure, I had this senior class in mind … your fire has given us light to guide our way.”
The Class of 2020 is highlighted by the largest number of students who identify as African Americans in the history of the College.
“Every minute of your education at Babson College has prepared you to be changemakers,” said Sadie Burton-Goss, chief diversity & inclusion officer. “A world pandemic tried to knock you down, and you got up. What could be more inspiring than the stories you got to tell about this year?”
Associate Professor Tina Opie encouraged graduates to view this moment as a launching pad.
“Graduation is the beautiful beginning of a new journey,” she said.