Douglass College 2020 and 2021 Graduation Reception
On October 23, 2021, Douglass College hosted the classes of 2020 and 2021 for an in-person celebration of their graduations. While the classes each had a virtual ceremony to honor their achievements, this in-person event allowed staff, graduates, and loved ones to meet face to face to celebrate Douglass excellence. Dean Jacquelyn Litt, Alexandra Anderson DRC’20, and Veronica Bido DRC’21 all gave remarks to congratulate the graduates and reflect on their unique journeys.
“Unprecedented. That’s the word that has been used to describe the last two years,” said Veronica Bido DRC’21 in her student address. “Yet, I recently began to think about it in a different way. As I was pondering about what to say today, the word unprecedented came to mind. I didn’t think of the usual suspects—an unprecedented global pandemic, unprecedented year, and so on. No, instead, I thought of Douglass Women. And how we have always been unprecedented.”
“Douglass was at once a refuge and a launchpad,” said Alexandra Anderson DRC’20 in her student address. “Through th[e] challenges [of past years], we built both opportunity and community.”
While listening to speakers, graduates enjoyed refreshments, conversed with loved ones, took photos with friends, and said a proper good-bye to the Douglass staff.
In addition to the reflections from student speakers, Sana Colter DRC’20, a flutist and musician, performed renditions of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” The Douglass Alma Mater, and two other pieces.
The program closed with the listing of candidates in which each attendee was individually recognized and received a special parting gift from the College.
Douglass was so thankful to have had the opportunity to invite graduates back to campus for an in-person ceremony, and looks forward to keeping in touch with all the graduates from the Classes of 2020 and 2021!
To read the full speeches by student speakers, please see below.
That’s the word that has been used to describe the last two years. The daily buzzword that we use to explain and over-explain our new realities. It’s the word that I am sure my peers, deans, and Douglass faculty, have become so familiar with in using in our daily vocabulary, that sometimes we probably wish it didn’t exist.
Yet, I recently began to think about it in a different way. As I was pondering about what to say today, the word unprecedented came to mind. Instead, I didn’t think of the usual suspects: An unprecedented global pandemic, unprecedented year, and so on.
No, instead, I thought of Douglass Women. And how we have always been unprecedented.
In 1918, the NJ College for Women was established. Mabel Smith Douglass asked for one dollar donations in the New Brunswick neighborhood to help build the school. Mabel Smith Douglass was the first dean who led the way to provide an exemplary education for the women who attended.
In 1938, Julia Baxter Bates was the first African American student admitted into Douglass. After being denied to teach in the state of NJ because of her skin color, she went on to lead research in NAACP, and worked with civil rights activists advocating against discrimination and racism.
In the last 100 years, Douglass has promoted women across all fields, championing diversity and inclusion. Students of color now make up two-thirds of the enrollment, with nearly half coming from families speaking languages other than English at home.
Fast forward to the present day, let’s look at the achievements of the Class of 2020 and 2021. Our Douglass women have always been trailblazers in their own right, following in the steps of the Douglass women before them.
Last year, three Douglass women came together and created an initiative called true inclusion, to address inclusion and equity for all honors college students.
Another Douglass woman created an advocacy corps for art education advocacy, demonstrating how powerful art can be as a form of advocacy.
A current Douglass student established Rainbow Pines, a safe place for students part of the LGBTQ community.
We have Douglass students making their mark on campus, at Yale Law School, on Fulbright in Spain, Grad School, in Education, and at consulting firms–and it doesn’t stop there.
There will never be enough time to fully acknowledge the unprecedented power illustrated by each and every Douglass woman who has walked through these doors. I will, however, take this moment to remind y’all to acknowledge your strength and perseverance. Most importantly, to follow Audre Lorde’s words that said “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation.” As we venture out into this world, let's make ourselves a priority, care for ourselves and remind ourselves that we are valuable and empowered. I encourage y’all to ask yourselves what you want.
Thank you to everyone who has made this possible.
Hello everyone, and welcome! Class of 2020, we made it! 3 and ¾ and 1 and ½ years later! I am glad you all decided to put on real pants to come to the ceremony today. It has been a while since we were told we’ll be coming back after spring break. If only this whole time was spring break! During our time at Douglass, we experienced the 2016 election, Me Too, worsening climate change, travel bans, changes to DACA, and the rise of Lizzo, mom jeans, and meme culture, to name a few of the defining events of our college years. Douglass was at once a refuge and a launchpad. Through these challenges, we built both opportunity and community. Student orgs formed to address social justice topics and organize protests.
In classes, we learned the works of Black feminists who challenged injustice on multiple fronts through intersectional feminism. We have also learned academic rigor when it came to researching topics in our major, and applied them to papers and group projects, the best parts of the college experience! Now that we have moved on from Douglass to jobs, grad school, and our parents’ house again, we have had to use our Douglass skills already.
The police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd on top of countless others in the Black community lead to the highest heights of the Black Lives Matter movement. Many people confronted their privilege and complicity for the first time. For us white Douglass women, it was a chance to reexamine and commit to active antiracism. For BIPOC Douglass women, it was a long awaited reckoning of what has been shouted from the rooftops since the movement began. How are we complicit in the system? How can we act on antiracism? Douglass gave us a toolkit, which we continue to use to achieve justice for all.
Finally, on a lighter note, perhaps the best legacy of Douglass is friendship. We celebrated Douglass’s 100th birthday together with our own milestones, like 21sts and internship offers, and stayed up late studying for finals. The relationships we built were tested since then over facetime and groupchats. Although we weren’t able to socialize in the student center or in this same space to study, we were still strong despite the distance, 6 ft or greater. We pulled each other through the pandemic with baking inspo, playlists, movie nights, game nights, etc. The juxtaposition of our pandemic social life and Douglass social life displayed how dear disco dances, dining hall dinners, and even drudgery in our dorm dungeons really were. So now, we have the opportunity to gather in person, grateful to finally graduate, pass through the gates, and remember the “golden college days” of Douglass. We are now officially the people who say “gosh, remember _____ from back in college?!?”