The University of New Haven marked the start of a new tradition, hosting a Celebration of Excellence to honor graduating students of color, multicultural students, and students from underrepresented groups, recognizing their accomplishments, and welcoming them to the alumni community.
January 29, 2021
When Amber Marrero ’21 began her career at the University of New Haven, her goal was to be active in the University community and to connect with her fellow students. She has done just that, helping to foster a sense of inclusion on campus and forming many meaningful relationships.
A member of the University’s NAACP chapter and its Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA), Marrero has been committed to promoting diversity and unity among her classmates. This extended to prospective Chargers, as well. While working in the University’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, she took pride in making sure prospective students and their families felt welcome as she gave them tours of the campus.
Marrero recently reflected on her time at the University as she spoke to her fellow Chargers as part of the University’s inaugural Celebration of Excellence, an event honoring students of color, multicultural students, and students from underrepresented groups, and recognizing their accomplishments at the University.
“In my experience working with students, clubs, and offices on campus, I have learned what it means to be a leader and to work with others,” said Marrero, who was awarded her bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity and networks at the University’s Virtual Winter Commencement. “I am proud to say I have achieved my goal of getting involved, and I look forward to being an active alumna and member of the Black Alumni Network.”
Hosted by Steven Macchiarolo, director of graduate student engagement, the event brought the University community together via Zoom to celebrate graduating students and welcome them to the alumni community. University faculty and staff acknowledged the challenges students have faced and overcome during the past year, and they commended their perseverance.
“This is truly an important event that we are now introducing into our family of University traditions,” said President Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D. “As an institution of higher learning, we have an important responsibility, one that we embrace, to ensure that all members of our University community feel welcomed, valued, and a true sense of belonging. We are proud to celebrate their successes and achievements.”
‘You are more than enough’
Jennifer Edwards ’21 addressed her graduating classmates as well, sharing inspirational quotes from Michelle Obama and Maya Angelou. She also offered her own words of encouragement.
“No matter where life takes us after Commencement, always remember to uphold a positive mindset and remain optimistic,” said Edwards, vice president of the University’s NAACP chapter and a justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) ambassador. “The impact we have is much greater than we think.”
Chidera Emeto ’21 M.A. spoke on behalf of the University’s graduate students. A candidate in the University’s community psychology program, she discussed the meaningful impact her faculty mentors have had on her career as a student, her experiences as an international student, and her plans to pursue her doctorate in community psychology. She offered the following advice to her classmates.
“When you start second guessing your abilities and asking yourself, ‘why me?’ I want you to pause and ask yourself, ‘why not me?’” said Emeto, who hails from Nigeria. “You are not an imposter. You are real, and you are more than enough. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise or put undue pressure on you. You are running your own race at your own pace.”
The program, which will be held in advance of each upcoming Winter and Spring Commencement, was organized by the Undergraduate Student Government Association, the Graduate Student Council, the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Dean of Students Office, and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. As part of the event, the University community learned about another new celebration, the Lavender Ceremony, which will be held for the first time in May.
“The intention is to create an event that would bring together LGBTQ+ students for a chance to celebrate each other, their hard work, and their achievements,” said Daniel Stott ’21, a JEDI ambassador and member of the University’s People Rejoicing In Diversity Everywhere (PRIDE) executive board.
‘The best is yet to come’
The Celebration of Excellence included an a cappella musical performance by Michael Desir ’22, a music and sound recording major, who performed two songs by musician and civil rights activist Nina Simone. Ronald E’an Pierce II ’16, delivered the keynote address.
Passionate about music and racial equity, Pierce discussed how he focused on both as a student at the University. A member of the Chargers Marching Band, he served as president of the University’s NAACP student chapter, a resident assistant in the music living learning community, and he was involved with student government.
An active alumnus, Pierce has remained connected to the University and its student leadership, and he shared why this is so meaningful for him. He also encouraged students and new graduates to stay involved.
“I feel a loyalty to my earned undergraduate degree,” said Pierce, who now works for Travelers Insurance. “I know deep down that the success of current students only enhances the value of the degree. I want to help uplift the ability of students to be successful because their success is our success.
“You are more equipped than any graduate who has come before you,” he continued. “The collegiate experience you have will re-shape our world, make it safer, and make it more equitable. Know, without doubt, the best is yet to come.”