Pride, Joy and Circumstance Take Center Stage at Lavender Graduation

  • Melodie Saucedo, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology this spring, celebrated at UT Dallas’ seventh annual Lavender Graduation. Saucedo was joined by Dr. George Fair (left), vice president for diversity and community engagement and dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Matt Winser-Johns, assistant director for LGBT+ programs at the Galerstein Gender Center.

At Lavender Graduation, the tables were decorated with sprigs of lavender. The cake had lavender icing. Even The University of Texas at Dallas backdrop, specially lit for the occasion, glowed lavender.

The color symbolized pride and community at the University’s seventh annual ceremony to honor the contributions and accomplishments of LGBT+ and ally students.

“It’s really special to have this night to celebrate together,” said Melodie Saucedo, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology this spring.

Saucedo was one of 24 students who participated in this year’s ceremony at the McDermott Suite in the Eugene McDermott Library.

More than 100 students have participated in Lavender Graduation since the University first hosted a ceremony. The event is sponsored by the Galerstein Gender Center, Alumni Relations, the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, the Career Center and the Student Counseling Center.

About Lavender Graduation

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the first Lavender Graduation Ceremony took place in 1995 at the University of Michigan. Lavender is important to LGBTQ history. It is a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle designating lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany. The LGBTQ civil rights movement combined them to represent pride and community. Today, more than 200 universities across the country honor their LGBTQ graduates with a Lavender Ceremony.

“The Galerstein Gender Center continues to foster an inclusive environment by advocating for gender equity through leadership development, education, programs and services,” Lauren DeCillis, director of the center, told the audience of graduates, family and friends at the event. “A point of pride is that we rate five out of five stars on the national Campus Pride Index, making our campus the most LGBT-friendly campus in Texas and the Southwest.”

The index is a benchmark of Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization that works to create safer, more LGBTQ-friendly learning environments at colleges and universities.

Lavender Graduation is one of many programs that help make UT Dallas a welcoming campus for all students. UT Dallas also offers student organizations and social events that celebrate LGBT students, a gender nondiscrimination policy and gender-inclusive housing, among other programs.

At the recent graduation, Galerstein Center staff shared the accomplishments and contributions of each graduate. Dr. Gene Fitch Jr., vice president for student affairs, presented cords to the students, while Dr. Amanda Smith, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, gave certificates to them.

Dallas lawyer Katie Sprinkle BA’90, the keynote speaker, spoke about her process of transitioning her gender identity and working as a lawyer to help other transgender people with legal challenges.

“This school gave me the confidence I needed to complete my law degree,” Sprinkle said.

Saucedo, who works as a community educator at the Galerstein Center, said events like Lavender Graduation help students feel more connected at UT Dallas. Saucedo served as site leader for Alternative Spring Break this year for a group of students who traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, to participate in a week of service with Campus Pride.

After graduation, Saucedo plans to continue working in higher education to help other LGBT+ students. For now, Saucedo plans to stay at the University as part of a fast-track program in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences to earn a master’s degree in applied sociology.

“I hope I can continue to work in higher education as a professional who advances programs and services for LGBT+ students while earning my PhD so that I may eventually teach college-level courses as well,” Saucedo said.

Matt Winser-Johns, assistant director of LGBT+ Programs at UT Dallas, said Saucedo already is off to a great start.

“Melodie is not just a wonderful student; they are phenomenal. I have never met a student so focused, driven and kind,” Winser-Johns said. “Not only does Melodie produce quality programs, they pour themselves into every fiber of the true meaning of each program. I honestly cannot wait to see all of the amazing things Melodie will do in their bright future.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].