Greetings from the Graduate Student Association

Sophia Safdieh MFA ’22, Coordinator, Graduate Student Association

Congratulations Graduates!

My name is Sophia Safdieh and I am the current GSA coordinator. This year has been demanding and difficult for so many of you especially starting graduate school in person and switching over to being entirely virtual. Your strength and perseverance didn’t go unnoticed. Despite being completely online our graduate community has been able to bond through trying times. Watching my peers work through a pandemic has been so inspirational, especially those of you who are in different time zones—what a commitment to your education!

I’d like to specifically thank the previous GSA coordinators who are graduating today! Sidney, Karen, and Kyrie, thank you so much for putting in so much hard work into GSA and for leaving behind a well organized space for graduate students. I can’t wait to see you all succeed! I’d also like to thank Tara James the GSA advisor for always being there for us—we would be lost without you! Thank you to Kim Ferguson, the Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies, for always having her doors open for all graduate students and for representing us everyday. A big thank you to Joan McCann, the director of administration—you do so much for us graduate students!

Shoutout to the faculty, staff, and administration for continuing to create a community within the graduate program despite being entirely online—you have made it so much easier for the students to virtually gather and learn.

Sidney Wegener MA ’21, Outgoing Coordinator, Graduate Student Association

Hello students, family, faculty, and everyone who is present today to celebrate the commencement of Sarah Lawrence College’s 2021 graduate student class. My name is Sidney Wegener, I am the outgoing Graduate Student Association Coordinator and a graduating student of the Women’s History program. I would like to thank you all for being here today from various time zones under circumstances that we weren’t anticipating when we began our careers at Sarah Lawrence College, but, here we are. I would like to acknowledge the hard work of all the graduate faculty and administrators who adapted to create support systems for student communities, studies, research, performances, and more. Thank you to Tara James, the staff advisor for the Graduate Student Association and Assistant Director of the Women’s History program, who committed tremendous effort to uplifting our graduate students. Lastly, I would not be giving this speech if it weren’t for the GSA Co-Coordinators, Karen Lowey Movilla and Kyrie Ellison, whose contributions to the graduate student community have been incredibly important. Before continuing, I would like to acknowledge that Sarah Lawrence College is established on land traditionally stewarded by Munsee Lenape and Wappinger Native peoples and I am giving this speech while on land traditionally stewarded by Nisenan and Miwok Native peoples. Native land acknowledgments are critical for universities and I encourage taking action by engaging with the Landback movement.

When we stepped onto campus in fall of 2019, we found community while sitting together at the Barbara Walters Campus Center, going to the Graduate Student Association karaoke night, and as student employees taking lunches together. By April of 2020, it was clear that we wouldn’t be together on campus again for a long time as we attempted to adjust to life during a pandemic. Some of us moved back home with family, some of us stayed quarantined in city apartments, some of us became at-home educators for children on top of finishing our own graduate degrees. During this year of heightened awareness of racial injustice in this country, sparked by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, some of our graduate students joined protests, some created community events at SLC, some committed to the critical practice of self-care as a form of activism. As a whole, our graduate student body grew stronger in commitments to anti-racism by opening up spaces for dialogue and action such as the new Graduate Rights, Acknowledgment, and Diversity Collective which co-hosted the Graduate Student Speaker Panel on Research, Writing, and Race.

Let’s acknowledge the unimaginable amounts of emotional, intellectual, and physical labor this graduating class committed to their research, projects, and writing. Many of our graduate students struggled through this pandemic facing depression, anxiety, isolation, illness, fatigue, financial stress, and family strife. For the last year, we pushed through unprecedented changes in how we conducted research, put on performances, continued field work, and provided education for local young community members who would usually be attending class at the Early Childhood Center. Congratulations to every single one of you for making it through. No other class of graduating grad students had to adjust to life in a pandemic just shy of a year into their masters degree. Now, we have reached the finish line and we owe ourselves a huge amount of credit not only for graduating with our masters degrees, but also for rising to the challenges this past year presented to us as scholars, performers, educators, creatives, healthcare practitioners, and humans. Congratulations to the graduate student class of 2021, we did it y’all!

Remarks as prepared for delivery