Celebrating the Class of 2023

Congratulations to our graduating students and Swearer award winners! Stop by our Open House on May 26 from 1 to 3 p.m. with your family and friends before commencement.
May 23, 2023

Celebrating the Class of 2023

Congratulations to our graduating students and Swearer award winners! Stop by our Open House on May 26 from 1 to 3 p.m. with your family and friends before commencement. Learn about our programs and fellowships, connect with staff and meet some of our current and graduating students and alumni. Graduating students can also pick up their cords. 

It was a cool Friday afternoon on April 28 when the Swearer Center hosted our End-of-Year Celebration, recognizing the extraordinary work our graduating students contributed to Rhode Island communities alongside our community partners. Joining our students and community partners were faculty, staff, alumni and family, enjoying one another’s company under a tent on Pembroke field with delicious, local catering in hand. In the award ceremony preceding the reception, Swearer Center staff, community partners and nominators presented six awards to members of the Class of 2023 and two awards to faculty members.

Mary Jo Callan, Vice President for Community Engagement and Stark Family Executive Director of the Swearer Center, began the celebration with warm welcoming remarks, reflecting on the accomplishments of our graduating students and opportunities before them beyond Brown.

“Your commitment to service and engagement with the Swearer Center and–especially–within the broader Providence community has been inspiring. You have demonstrated a deep understanding of the importance of de-centering yourselves, in service to the greater good and contributing to just change in the world around you. Whether you pursue a career in public service or choose another path, remember that personal commitment and collective action are powerful forces to make positive change amidst struggle and inequity.”

In their joint reflections later on, Swearer Center staff members Asia Stevens and Savanna Illinger built on the themes of selflessness and reciprocity woven through (VP?) Callan’s address, as Stevens spoke glowingly about the character of the Swearer community.

“Being part of a community means we see one another, we seek to acknowledge each other’s humanity, expertise, and strengths. We break bread together and share meals, and we learn, create and celebrate together. All of us at the Swearer Center are grateful for you–our community.”

Thank you, Swearer Community!

Thank you to all who came together to make this event possible: Swearer Center staff and student staff members; Will Battersby and Jen Heim from Event Support; Scott Lapham, our photographer and the technicians from NE Showtime Productions. A special thank you for the fantastic food provided by these local businesses: Kabob & Curry, Amos House: More than a Meal Catering and Syroya’s Bakery. 

We also express our gratitude for Swearer’s community-based partners and stakeholders, whose work toward access, equity and justice makes our work possible. The Swearer Center’s Community Advisory Board is excited to recognize three community organizations with $2500 awards for organizations that have shown innovation and profound work in one of the following areas: 1) Community Joy & Resilience, 2) Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Anti-Racist Practice, 3) Work that aims to address the needs of the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders. Click here to nominate an agency that has impacted you, and keep an eye out when we announce the winners in June! 

Swearer Center Student Awards

Six Swearer Center students from the Class of 2023 have been honored for their exceptional contributions to the Center’s mission to build on community strengths and address community challenges through collective action: 

  • Abelardo Hernández Community Engagement Award: Sarah Packer '23

  • Engaged Scholarship Undergraduate Award: Roshan Sapkota '23, and Leona Hariharan '23

  • Engaged Scholarship Graduate Award: Megan Feragne

  • Student Leadership Award: Elbie Seibert '23 and Aaron Castillo '23


Abelardo Hernández Community Engagement Award: 

Sarah Packer '23
Sarah Packer worked throughout her time as an undergraduate at Providence’s Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, a culturally attuned, multi-lingual clinic providing high-quality care to uninsured Rhode Islanders. Julia Testa, Project Manager at Clinica Experanza/Hope Clinic, presented Sarah’s award, saying: 

“Sarah has been an incredible asset to the clinic’s volunteer team over these last few years and we are so thankful to have her. She consistently goes above and beyond to help patients, staff, and her fellow volunteers. She never shies away from a challenge and has stepped up time and time again including helping to improve clinic workflows and patient experiences in addition to training new volunteers and so much more.”

Engaged Scholarship Undergraduate Award: 

Roshan Sapkota '23
As a Bonner Community, Edward Guiliano, and Royce Fellow, Roshan’s main focus as an undergraduate student at Brown has been public health-focus engaged scholarship. Roshan’s nominators wrote:

“Roshan is a model for building out an elaborated conception of community-engaged work that recognizes this essential truth: that Brown students are enmeshed in ‘community.’”

Leona Hariharan '23
Leona spent her undergraduate years conducting research with local community health workers and community doulas in Mysore, India, and founding Doulas@Brown. Sarah Williams, Louise Lamphere Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies, presented Leona’s Engaged Scholarship Award by providing a rich description of her work:

“In forging connections with local doulas and birthworkers, and allowing community organizations to guide the future of Doulas@Brown, it can operate ethically, in good relations, strengthening the relationships between Brown University students and Rhode Island communities. The seeds that Leona has planted will continue to bear fruit for many years to come.”

Engaged Scholarship Graduate Award 

Megan Feragne
As a Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Scholar, Megan has developed her understanding of community engagement through the lens of public health, specifically the intersection of pediatric health disparities and immigration. David Arango, a second year MPH student, illustrated Megan’s joyful contributions to the surrounding community before presenting her award, saying:

“She devoted the summer to combating low literacy and numeracy among seven and eight-year-olds in Central Falls, RI, spending every day teaching them new skills and taking them to explore places around the state such as Wright's Dairy Farm, local parks, and the food pantry.”

Student Leadership Award 

Elbie Seibert '23 
Bonner Community Fellow and three-year Bonner Leadership Team member Elbie Seibert was instrumental in leading his peers at Swearer. He worked to identify the next Bonner Community Fellows, advising and supporting them as they embarked on their work. In presenting Elbie’s award, Assistant Director, Co-curricular Learning, Joshua Rodriguez, said:

“Elbie is an effective advocate for others. Through his leadership he empowers his peers and is a champion for their success. Elbie has helped many students find their way to Swearer and take advantage of the opportunities available to them while here.”

Aaron Castillo '23
Aaron’s time at the Swearer Center was defined by his positive influence and sincerity as he worked to hire and orient staff and use his institutional and local knowledge to serve as a resource to other students. L. (Coco) Co spoke to Aaron’s impact at the Swearer Center, saying:

”He brings such enthusiasm to Swearer and is not afraid voice constructive criticism and push us to do better. Aaron spends much of his time building friendships, collaborating with local artists, and accepting invitations into the homes of life-long members of the Providence community. He approaches all of these interactions, and the many long-lasting relationships that have emerged from them, with humility, respect, and genuine care.”

Engaged Faculty Awards

From a very strong pool of nominees, a committee of community partners, students, staff and faculty selected Dawn King and Linford D. Fisher as the 2023 recipients of the Howard R. Swearer Engaged Faculty Awards for Teaching and for Research, respectively. 

Learn more about our faculty award recipients and their work here.

Note: quotes from nominators have been combined and condensed for space and readability. Thank you to the community members who nominated students – it was a pleasure to read all of the heartfelt commendations for our many deserving student leaders!

To see more of the Commencement events and celebrations on social media, follow the hashtags #Brown2023, #BrownU, and #SwearerCommunity. Congratulations graduates!