Lavender Graduation

Lavender Graduation honors graduating LGBTQ+ students and acknowledges their achievements and contributions to the university community.

While the ceremony was already held, we would like to invite undergraduate and graduate students to contact us to receive lavender cords and a certificate as well as be recognized on this webpage. Students who would like to participate should email the SAGE Center at

2021 Southern Connecticut State University Graduates

Hanna Birenbaum

Hanna will be graduating with a Bachelor’s in Communications. Their time at Southern was incredibly valuable, as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community they felt beyond safe and accepted in and out of the classroom. During their last year at Southern they collaborated on a research paper with Dr. Baker examining transgender dignity within the workplace and how to create a safer work environment for transgender individuals. This experience helped them to explore their own gender identity, realizing that they identify as nonbinary. They are extremely thankful to all the professors within the Communication program for pushing them to reach their full potential and encouraging them to be their most authentic self. They graduated from Southern Magnum Cum Laude and plan to attend graduate school in the fall to receive their PhD in Communication Studies. They hope to examine queer, sexual, and gender studies through the lens of Communication. Throughout their academic career, they are looking forward to advocating for marginalized members within the Queer community.

Mike Sanger

Mike will be graduating with a Bachelor’s in Sociology, and a minor in Women’s and Gender’s studies. He will start by thanking the SAGE Center for existing on campus and its continued work for social justice, gender and sexuality equality, and attempting to foster a more welcoming community across the university for LGBTQ+ students. As far as his own accomplishments, It has been a humbling experience to attend SCSU and pursue higher ed as a non-traditional student. In Mike’s time here, he has received several awards including the Outstanding Women's & Gender Studies Student Award in 2019, the Ingrid Washinawatok El-Issa Service Award in 2020, was nominated for the President, University Leadership, and/or University Service Award, although he was not selected, was interviewed as a candidate for the 2021 Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award—currently awaiting announcement of the four recipients, and was recently notified of my selection for Departmental Honors in Arts & Sciences, the Spirit of Public Sociology Award, and that he will graduate MAGNA CUM LAUDE with an estimated GPA of 3.82. Mike will also be recognized for completing an undergraduate Honors Thesis, the first to submit one to the Women's & Gender Studies Program. He is an active member of Iota Iota Iota (Triota) National Women's Studies Honor Society, a trained facilitator and member of PEACE Club—Peer Educators Advocating for Campus Empowerment—and have spearheaded several events such as discussion panels and film screenings (on campus pre-COVID and virtually this past year) to bring awareness to the many types of violence faced by a multitude of minorities. He achieved much of this while Teacher Assisting for four different departments including Computer Science, History, Communication Media & Screen Studies, and Women's & Gender Studies, and while taking multiple graduate-level courses—three of which he is transferring to the WGS M.A. Program here at SCSU. Mike’s goal is to continue pushing forward, complete his master's, and find his place working in student advisement and advocacy, perhaps at a college or university here in Connecticut. His final note is this: “I was not able to accomplish all of these things alone—my advice to others is to seek out those advisors, mentors, and even peers who can help support your academic goals and find the right path for YOU. If you need help, never be ashamed to ask for it. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your passion and reach for the stars. The possibilities are limitless!”

Joaquin Selmeski

Joaquin will be graduating with a Bachelor's in Psychology, and minors in Anthropology and Leadership Development. He has served as a student leader in various roles over his four years at southern. He has co-coordinated the Peer Mentor Program, as well as focusing in his major with Psychology Club. In 2019, he went to Ghana on a service trip with Global Brigades. He also is the current President of LGBTQIA+ Prism--Southern's social club for LGBQTIA+ students. He is grateful to have had so many great opportunities and encourages all students to make the best of their time here, while they have the chance to.

Mariah Villanova

Mariah will be graduating with a Bachelor’s in Public Health and a minor in Psychology. She has worked as the undergraduate intern for the Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy, and Support Center (VPAS), where she created new social media campaigns, lead and planned the “Take Back the Night” event, and coordinated health promotion tabling events. Mariah is also a Peer Educator Advocating for Campus Empowerment, which gives her the opportunity to educate students about sexual misconduct, create “Bystander Intervention” trainings, support victims of sexual misconduct, and increase awareness of access to available resources. She also is a student educator on SCSU’s Support and Resource Team, contributing to a collaborative victim-centered team response to sexual misconduct. Mariah has also been involved in some clubs on campus, such as the Symphonic Pulse Dance Company and the Caribbean Student Association.