Celebrating the Class of 2019 at Swearer Graduation
On Friday, May 24, the Swearer Center celebrated students from the Class of 2019 with a graduation ceremony and reception at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. The ceremony honored students who, during their time at Brown, had participated in Swearer Center programs and fellowships and taken on leadership roles within the Swearer community.
Students, parents, staff, faculty, and community partners gathered to hear Asia Stevens, who has worked at the Swearer Center for two and a half years, deliver the welcoming remarks, which focused on the event’s theme: “Action for Change.”
“We at the Swearer Center dedicate ourselves to the belief and pursuit that with action, we can change ourselves, change our communities, and ultimately create a more just world,” she told the audience, before addressing graduating seniors directly.
“We as a staff are proud of the work that you accomplished,” she told them, “but more importantly, we are ready for the people you will become.”
During the ceremony, five students were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the Swearer Center’s mission to build on community strengths and address community challenges through collective action. Betsy Shimberg, Assistant Dean of the College and Director of Student Development at the Swearer Center, presented Fahim Mahmud ‘19 with the Community Engagement Award. Since the fall of his first year at Brown, Mahmud has been engaged with the William D'Abate Elementary School through the student group, BEAM (Brown Elementary After-school Mentoring). He has personally worked with hundreds of students at D’Abate, providing mentoring and academic support. As a site leader, he has built strong relationships among his peers at Brown, recruiting tutors and coordinating and encouraging his fellow program participants.
Dean Shimberg presented Swearer Center Leadership Awards to Anna Fireman ‘19 and Sam Reidt ‘19. Fireman and Reidt have both served as peer mentors for the Swearer Center, as well as participating in multiple programs and fellowships throughout their time at Brown. Fireman was a Bonner Community fellow, a member of the Community Corps, and a student of the Engaged Scholarship Program. Reidt was a Bonner Community fellow with both the College Advising Corps and Generation Citizen, and his contributions to campus-wide programming include developing the "Let's Talk About the White Savior Complex" workshop with Dean Shimberg, which was recently presented to 80 faculty, graduate students, and staff members.
Allen Hance, Assistant Dean of the College and Director of Academic Engagement at the Swearer Center, presented two Engaged Scholarship Awards. The undergraduate award was presented to Maya Singh ‘19. Through the Engaged Scholars Program, Singh designed a practicum that investigated how dance and meditative practices can help people cope with chronic pain. This evolved into her senior capstone work, which investigated disparities in pain treatment for people from low-income communities and with marginalized identities.
Rising fourth-year Ph.D. student Laura Garbes, who received the graduate award, joined the Swearer Center as a graduate fellow in the fall of 2018. In this role, she stewarded the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) program, coordinating, mentoring, and inspiring the cohort of young social entrepreneurs who travel to Brown to participate in this biannual program. In addition to her own research practice, Garbes is also involved with the Du Boisian Scholars Network, the Brown Center for Students of Color, and the Leadership Alliance.
The student address was given by Jacqlyn Blatteis ‘19, who spoke about the importance of being surrounded by an inspiring, engaged, and supportive community. As a Bonner Community Fellow and member of Community Corps, Blatteis is a leader of the student group, HOPE (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere). HOPE engages with people who are homeless or marginally housed alongside multiple community partners. More than 100 Brown students in HOPE serve weekly hot meals, conduct nighttime outreach, help individuals exit homelessness, and advocate for policy changes.
“As we make our way out into the world, away from Brown, away from the Swearer Center, I encourage each of us to carry this community with us wherever we go - to know that we still lift each other up and have each other’s backs, even from halfway around the world,” she told the audience. “No matter the challenges we face, we are - and always will be - part of a broader community that is creating change through action.”