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Professor Kesho Scott to give commencement speech

From left to right, Kathryn Stender ’21, Saketan Anand ’21, Monessa Cummins, Kesho Scott, John Garrison and Obuchi Adikema ’21. Graphic by Andrew Tucker.

The results are in: Professor Kesho Scott, sociology, will address students at the 2021 Grinnell College commencement ceremony after a class-wide vote by the class of 2021. The baccalaureate ceremony will feature two faculty speakers: Professor John Garrison, English, and Professor Monessa Cummins, classics.

The news comes after the announcement that the 2021 graduation ceremony will be held in-person for all fourth-year students. Families of the graduating students, first- through third-years and other faculty and staff can’t attend in person, per the College guidelines, but they can watch the ceremony through a livestream.

The 2020 commencement is still highly unusual in two ways. First, rarely has Grinnell chosen one of its own professors as commencement speaker. Typically, the College has chosen a public figure – past years’ speakers have included well-known writers, academic researchers and politicians.

In addition, Scott and the two other two faculty speakers, Dr. Cummins and Dr. Garrison, will be the only faculty permitted to attend commencement in person. In prior years, Grinnell’s commencement usually sees over a hundred faculty members in attendance.

Scott has served as the Chair of both the American studies and sociology department at the College, and has taught classes for both. During her tenure, Scott served on multiple student-led BIPOC advocacy committees for the College and co-wrote the award-winning essay collection “Tight Spaces.”

In 2008, Scott won the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice, and in 2016, she was inducted into the Iowa African American Hall of Fame.

Cummins is an associate professor of classics, specializing in Greek poetry and literature. In 2014, Cummins was ranked third on a list of the “25 Best College Professors in America” by Business Insider magazine – based off of ratings at the infamous – and in 2019, she received the Society for Classical Studies (SCS) Award for Excellence in Collegiate Teaching.

Garrison is a professor of English and serves as the department chair of Peace and Conflict Studies. He specializes in early-modern English literature, teaching one of the most-recommended classes at Grinnell: Introduction to Shakespeare. For his work, he’s been awarded fellowships from the Folger Shakespeare Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Philosophical Society, among others.

Student speakers for the event will be Kathryn Stender, Obuchi Adikema and Saketan Anand (all `21).

After the fully-remote 2020 commencement, the announcement of an in-person commencement ceremony – even with social distancing requirements in place – was a relief to many fourth-year students.

“I’m very glad the College came through on that front – with having it be in-person,” said Anand, adding that he was also happy the College was acknowledging what he described as a pent-up worry the Class of 2021 was having that graduation would be entirely virtual, just like last year’s ceremony.

For the class of 2021, whose last two years at the College have been marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, an in-person graduation to mark the end of their years at Grinnell represents a glimmer of hope on the road back to pre-pandemic normalcy.

“There’s a lot of hope attached to the idea of being able to walk at commencement,” said Anand.

Anand said he hopes that, even with necessary social-distancing precautions, commencement will finally be an opportunity to reconnect in-person with classmates he hasn’t seen for over a year.

“We’ve been cooped up in our off-campus housing – or wherever we’re living. … Hopefully, we’ll be able to see and interact [with] the people we spent four years in this institution with.”

Commencement will be held on Friday, May 28, at 10:00 a.m. CST.

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Nina Baker
Nina Baker, Staff Writer
Nina Baker is a fourth-year Russian major with a Russian, Central European and Eurasian Studies concentration from Lakeville, Minnesota. When she's not reporting for The Scarlet & Black, she loves taking long walks, reading, and learning foreign languages.
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