Multicultural Student Center honors graduates, student leaders

May 11, 2016

The Multicultural Student Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison recognized student leaders and graduates at a reception on Monday, May 2.

One hundred ten graduates received red and white kente cloth stoles – red representing passion, blood and sacrifice; white, representing initiation and new beginnings – decorated with the Sankofa symbol.

“With this stole, we honor all of the sacrifices that brought you here today, we celebrate your entrance into the next phase of your life, and we remind you to carry proudly your history, culture, and traditions,” said Helen Xu, organizational development specialist at the MSC, as the stoles were presented. “All of these will play a role in the future you envision for yourself.”

Karla Foster (blue stripes), coordinator for African American Student Academic Services, poses with happy graduates resplendent in their embroidered graduation stoles.

Karla Foster (blue stripes), coordinator for African American Student Academic Services, poses with happy graduates resplendent in their embroidered graduation stoles. Courtesy Multicultural Student Center

The embroidered colors and symbols on this West African cloth, once worn only by royalty, represent a community’s proverbs and stories. First attributed to the University of Ghana, the presentation of kente cloth has now become a tradition at universities all over the world.

The Sankofa symbol embodies the Ghanaian proverb “Go back and fetch what you left yesterday”—in other words, “remember your history as you move forward.”

Gerald Cleveland, a Ho-Chunk elder, opened the ceremony with a welcome prayer and ceremonial ritual.

Winners of the Multicultural Leadership Awards include the following students:

  • Emerging Leader: Pajying Maggie Yang
  • Excellence in Social Justice Award: Cheyenne Coote
  • Crossroads Initiative Leadership Award: Damien Outar
  • Campus Legacy Award: Tyson Banh and Kayla Schmelling
  • Outstanding Educator: Cleda Wang
  • Best Collaborative Program: Wunk Sheek, for Pow Wow 2016
  • Excellence in Social Justice: ASM Equity & Inclusion Committee
  • Outstanding Student Organization: India Students Association
  • Alumni Achievement Award: Joe Maldonado
  • Wisconsin Experience Award winner and LaTreal Peterson Commencement Speaker: Steven Rodriguez

Wearing red and white kente cloth stoles embroidered with meaning, graduates pose with their Multicultural Student Center family and friends.