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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Annual Rainbow Graduation honored students, inspired directors and faculty

Tyler+Besh%2FArizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AHigher+Education+Graduate%2C+Daniel+DeHollander%2C+hugs+senior+Tyler+Thom+after+his+heart-felt+remarks.
Tyler Besh
Tyler Besh/Arizona Daily Wildcat Higher Education Graduate, Daniel DeHollander, hugs senior Tyler Thom after his heart-felt remarks.

Graduating LGBTQ and allied students were honored May 3 at the sixth annual Rainbow Graduation, sponsored by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs at Gallagher Theater.

Undergraduate, professional school and graduate students were all recognized at the ceremony, which was hosted by drag queen performer Lucinda Holliday and followed by a reception outside of the Student Union Memorial Center.

Staff members including Jennifer Hoefle-Olson, program director for LGBTQ Affairs, and Adela Licona, a faculty advisory committee member at the UA Institute for LGBT Studies, shared a few last words with the graduating students.

A sense of community was an important aspect of the commencement, Hoefle-Olson said. Hoefle-Olson has held her position for three years and said she identifies as a member of the LGBT community.

During her opening remarks, Licona said the UA is the only university in the state with a grant aimed specifically at LGBT research. The UA campus has also been noted as safe for LGBT students, she added.

“We really wanted to bring the ‘queerness’ to this ceremony to add to the experience,” Hoefle-Olson said. “I was glad we had few enough graduates to get a glimpse into each of their lives during the ceremony.”

Hoefle-Olson said, as a leader in the organization, she considers commencement a “culminating event.”

“It’s one of the few moments during the year where we get to recognize the amazing students I work with,” Hoefler-Olson said. “The students inspire me to keep at it with all of the energy they bring.”

Parents, family, friends and mentors had the opportunity to escort and present the 25 graduating students as they were presented with their cords. Holliday also shared her story of growing up in a small town in Iowa and having her mother as her strongest supporter at her “sold-out” shows back home.

Christina Bischoff, a senior studying ecology and evolutionary biology and co-director of Pride Alliance, said she will take this sense of community with her when she leaves campus.

“Everyone there is so devoted,” Bischoff said, “and every single person I’ve run across has so much compassion. It was the first organization I joined my freshman year, and I haven’t known college without them.”

Chris Sogge, a sociology and gender and women’s studies junior, and Katie Kilby, a public health junior, said they hope to continue the ceremony’s tradition as next year’s co-directors. The event’s recent move from the UA Poetry Center to the student union’s Gallagher Theater has allowed for more opportunities, Sogge said.

Kilby said she is also excited about the organization’s new location on the fourth floor of the student union.

“We’re [LQBTQ Affairs] on the brink of a new era,” Kilby said. “It’s become more noticeable that we’re expanding. I want to make that a goal for us next year.”

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