The 2021 Honors Commissioning ceremony took place on Friday, April 30th, at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Due to Covid-19 protocols and procedures, the selected student speakers delivered their remarks virtually. Thanks to Kaylee Crafton for the Welcome, Swetha Manivannan for the Keynote, and Johnny Yang for the Charge, and thank you to Madison Thornton for serving as our 2021 SMBHC Class Marshal! View over 50 pictures of the ceremony, photographed by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services.
(L-R) Kaylee Crafton, Swetha Manivannan, Johnny Yang, and Madison Thornton. (Photo by Jennifer Parsons)
Kaylee Crafton’s Welcome
Welcome faculty, family, friends, alumni, and I say this with some/slight bias—the most remarkable class ever produced by the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, my fellow graduates, the Class of 2021.
To my classmates, let me begin by saying this: We made it. We survived four years of late nights and early mornings in the Dungeon, cramming for tests or writing papers that we had procrastinated. We survived the dread and panic of writing and defending our theses. And we survived the snow week back in February, and I now know that a Mississippi snowstorm is quite unlike anything else.
But on a serious note, we witnessed, felt, and survived countless obstacles during our college journey. We’ve been instrumental leaders in creating much-needed change on our campus and in our state. We’ve witnessed and spoken out against heightened racial and social injustices. We packed our bags for spring break last year, not knowing that we weren’t coming back to campus to finish our junior year. And it goes without saying that this isn’t the senior year we expected nor wanted, but we’ve stuck it out, worked hard, been smart and made sacrifices for others, and we’ve savoured every moment and taken every opportunity given to us during this unconventional year.
Truly, I can’t help but feel grateful that we’re here. We’ve survived, and heck, we’re even getting to graduate in person! And although I would take any opportunity to hit “restart” on these four years and do it all over again, I can’t wait to see what’s next for us all. With the love and support of our families, friends, our beloved HoCo staff, and each other, we’ve done some pretty impressive things over the past four years. And for us, this is only the beginning.
Swetha Manivannan’s Keynote
Let me just start off by saying, We did it Joe! Oh and what a year it has been. Dear Fellow Citizen Scholars, I’m humbled to be virtually representing the iconic Class of 2021from the third floor lounge. All of you are making history right now being the first Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College class to have their entire senior year happen during a pandemic.
Throughout it all, one thing that has shined through is the strength of the HoCo community across space and time. Sally is so much more than free printing at 1 Sorority Row. It is a network of peers, faculty, staff, and alumni, (which oh my goodness we are about to join!) all committed to the common goal of uplifting one another as we ask the big questions and strive toward creating a better world. Our freshmen ventures question was “How do we know what is true?” And I know it to be true that no force of nature can stop the advancement of this union of great minds and even greater hearts. Although we could not have HoCoFo this year, arguably the greatest social event ever, we found creative ways to stay connected and make new memories via everyone’s favorite platform, Zoom, and other socially distanced formats.
HoCo is really special in the way that faculty, staff, and our peers care about one another and pour into each other, creating an environment where we could discover and cultivate our passions. Such as one of the GOAT professors who helped me realize my interest in incorporating South Asian topics in academia, and allowed me to create one of the most rewarding experiences of doing a presentation on Hinduism to her Honors 102 classes, leading a discussion on excerpts from the Mahabharata, and organizing a field trip for Honors 102 students to visit the Hindu Temple in Memphis.
SMBHC admin have been so supportive in efforts to lead the charge forward to being a place where All students from All backgrounds can grow together. In that regard, I am so proud of how far the Honors College Minority Engagement Council has come in the past few years. I alongside other student leaders such as THE resident HoCo artist, comedian, minority story-teller, Inaugural Vice-President, and 2nd President, Nakiyah Jordan, worked to lay the foundations of the organization. One of my favorite memories is decorating our #DiversiTree in the Great Room where we would make or bring ornaments representing our cultural backgrounds to add to the tree as well as our insightful Spectrum Zoom discussions. It was an honor to serve as your Inaugural President and Chief of Staff, and I’m so excited for all of the students who are carrying the mission forward of fostering an environment that promotes interconnectivity, cultivates greatness in academia, and generates a respectful community that opens dialogue for minority students within the SMBHC.
This class especially has championed creating a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and of course cross-culturally engaged campus. Just to scratch the surface on how remarkable and driven in the pursuit of social good this class is, I’d like to shout out a few of my peers. Joshua Mannery was the 6th African American student to become Associated Student Body President, and he spearheaded initiatives such as Stronger Together. Ainsley Ash started the SMBHC First-Gen Network to support the often overlooked population of first generation students. Chloe Grant President of Grove Grocery initiated the concept for the Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Association bringing together various student organizations to further DEI within and between organizations on campus. Katie Dames former ASB Senator led the writing of legislation to relocate the Confederate Statue. In addition, hundreds of students rallied behind the UMoveTheStatue Movement this summer, and this year the power of the student voice shined through as the Statue was relocated from the Circle. Mr. and Ms. Ole Miss, Cade Slaughter and Lilli Gordon, led a #UMListens initiative with Mental Health being a major focus of their Forward it Fund. Gianna Schuetz Ms. 3Peat ASB Treasurer expanded Student Activity Fee funding for DEI oriented events. Not to mention, the floor of the Hall of Fame was completely swept by HoCo seniors for the first time in years.
As Mahatma Gandhi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” The three greatest powers that I believe we as humans have is empathy, belief, and the ability to create. Continue the Community Action Challenge for life and Believe, Visualize, and Manifest more goodness into this world because the world definitely needs more of your light. Another one of my favorite quotes that is by Baba Ram Dass is that we are all just walking each other home. Or in our case, back home to the koi pond behind this window because one never truly graduates from Ole Miss.
Dear Sally, thank you for the education of a lifetime, for the past four incredible years, and for bringing the most amazing people together. Also, you just might need some sunglasses to go with your mask for commissioning because the future is just SO bright here.
Now in the wise words of Dean DSG who is also graduating from HoCo this year with us, Go Be Great! #RushHoCo #OnceAKoiFishAlwaysAKoiFish
I love you all so very much.
Johnny Yang’s Charge
Honors College Class of 2021,
Think about your experiences and thoughts when you first arrived on campus. How was Honors Welcome Week? Were your HoCo peers anything like what you expected? One important question that loomed over my head was “How am I going to succeed? As a graduate of a D-rated high school with no AP courses from rural Mississippi, I was somewhat underprepared and narrow-minded. The Honors College provided an eye-opening experience with the values of helping others along my journey as well as employing a citizen scholar mentality to combat inequities around me. However, that unwavering question about how I’d succeed followed me throughout college, and I also recognized this HoCo environment would not follow me upon graduation.
My undergraduate pre-med studies have led me to HEXACO which is a personality test. The C of HEXACO is conscientiousness and is a concept that I’ve adopted in my life to strive for success and equally remain cognoscente of how my actions or lack of actions impact the greater society. I want to leave you all with its four sub traits.
Diligence: Graduating with honors, diligence is not something new to you. Let’s be honest; that thesis was difficult. However, carrying that momentum after college will be more difficult, but consistent practice of conscientiousness is key to diligence.
Prudence: Decision-making is also difficult, but discern real from imaginary. For example, one should not be afraid to speak out against blatant injustice despite the potential repercussions falsely manifested in the mind.
Perfectionism: should be practiced in moderation but especially for important circumstances.
Organization: Allocate time to approach one’s day.
From my initial conversations, I was impressed by all of your aspirations and noticeable strengths. You’ve encouraged me to strive for success and it would be an injustice not to carry that ability forward to your next community. Embody conscientiousness in every moment, and you will inevitably find yourself succeeding, serving others, and contributing to the larger society. Thank you.