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Umoja Ceremony Welcomes First-Year Students of Color
Umoja Ceremony Welcomes First-Year Students of Color
Umoja Ceremony Welcomes First-Year Students of Color

August 30, 2018

Susquehanna's first-ever Umoja Welcome Ceremony greeted students of color within the Class of 2022 with a simple message—We got you.

"I am aware that that is not grammatically correct," said Stacey Pearson-Wharton, director of SU's Counseling Center. "But we got you. Through the good and the bad, the joys and the pains. We got you."

Umoja, which is the Swahili word for unity, started informally at Susquehanna three years ago for graduating students of color. Tuesday's ceremony for first-year students serves as a bookend, Pearson-Wharton said, "so that we welcome you to the community as you arrive, and as you're leaving four years from now, we'll send you off to take the world by storm."

Monica Prince, assistant professor of creative writing, asked the students to close their eyes, imagining themselves atop a very high cliff. She told them that the faculty and staff surrounding them are their parachutes.

"Being a student of color automatically means you now have to prove yourself-to the statistics, to the achievement gap, to your peers and to yourselves," Prince said. "We will walk with you, guide you and fight for you. We will catch you if you stumble, refresh you when you tire and remind you when you forget—you are not alone."

As each student was called to the stage at the Degenstein Center Theater, they received a smooth stone engraved with the words, "We Got You."

It was a message reiterated by Olu Onafowora, professor and chair of the Department of Economics.

"Things will not always work out the way that you want them to. Be resilient," Onafowora said, echoing SU's 2018 theme. "Your goal and our goal is to see you graduate in four years. SU! Four years! That's the rallying call."

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