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Midyear Completion Ceremony celebrates ’17.5ers

Ninety-two students mark completion of degree, will officially graduate May 2018

Contributing Writer
Monday, December 4, 2017

Ninety-two students marked the completion of their studies in this year’s Midyear Completion Ceremony Saturday in the Salomon Center. These students have had the opportunity to participate in multiple celebrations, as many of the students who participated also walked in the May 2017 Commencement. Additionally, they can walk again in the May 2018 Commencement if they choose, said Shannon O’Neill, assistant dean for junior and senior class and chemical dependency. At the May 2018 Commencement, these students will officially graduate and receive their diplomas.

Dean of the College Maud Mandel hosted the event and spoke with students about the milestone they had reached in their personal journeys. “Salomon was filled with parents, siblings, extended families, friends, faculty, deans and others who joined to wish the .5ers well,” Mandel wrote in an email to The Herald. “For most .5ers, the decision to complete their education in December was never the plan. … Some took a leave to pursue an opportunity, some hit a challenge that required time away from campus to overcome … and some had transferred to Brown from another school or after other careers or life experiences.”

Julianna Bradley ’17.5, who walked in the May 2017 Commencement and attended the Midyear Completion Ceremony, said that she preferred the recent ceremony “because it was short and simple.” The event was just one hour, meaning that Bradley could appreciate each of the students who walked and did not feel guilty about inviting friends, family and employers to come for her moment to shine. She described the May Commencement as a more formal event “with the cap and gown and pomp and circumstance,” and preferred that the dress code for the ceremony allowed individual styles to come through.

Guitarist Ethan Wold ’20 bookended the event with a prelude as students entered and a recessional as they left. The Jabberwocks also sang the national anthem at the beginning of the ceremony and the University “Alma Mater” at the end. In addition to Mandel’s remarks, the audience heard from President Christina Paxson P’19, Chaplain of the University Janet Cooper Nelson, Professor of History and Religion and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies André Willis and Maya Faulstich-Hon ’17.5, the student speaker chosen after a rigorous audition process.

Willis, who was chosen by Mandel to give the faculty address, explored the theme of letting one’s light shine. “You strengthened the Brown community by giving us your gifts and your light,” he told .5ers. “Even when those gifts created dissent, generated tension and led to protest, they expanded our awareness. Brown was enlarged by the gift of your light, and it was empowered by every challenge you brought.” 

In her speech, Faulstich-Hon spoke of the danger of normalizing constant work, injustice and the .5er narrative. “I was tired of the Midyear Completion Ceremony misrepresenting all .5er experiences as glowing and positive and amazing examples of Brown’s Open Curriculum,” wrote Faulstich-Hon in an email to The Herald.

“People often speak of .5ers with an assumption of deviancy,” she said in her speech. “We strayed from the normalized path. We’re non-traditional. Something didn’t go as planned. Something went wrong.” But “it doesn’t have to be wrong, or right or not normal. It just is, and here we are.”

Faulstich-Hon told a parable in her speech that resonated with Bradley: “There’s a man walking across a field, and he encounters a tiger. He starts to run, but he comes to a huge cliff. He sees a vine hanging over the edge and he grabs hold of it, swings over and starts climbing down. But he sees that there’s also a tiger below him! Then, two mice, one black and one white, scurry out from a crack in the cliff and start to chew on the vine. Tiger above. Tiger below. And two mice chewing at the vine. A wild strawberry, small and bright, is growing out from the rocky wall. The man plucks it and eats it.”

She encouraged everyone in the audience to take a pause and eat their strawberries, whatever they might be.

An hour before the ceremony, O’Neill wrote that there would be two student speakers at the event in an email to those participating in the ceremony. But Faulstich-Hon was the only student speaker at the ceremony. No speaker was prevented by the University from speaking at the event, Mandel wrote in an email to The Herald.