"I feel very connected to the API community on campus," said Vikrant Garg who participated in the celebration. "I was able to celebrate my identity since it has largely shaped the person I was when I got to college, and who I am now."
Garg graduated with a master's degree in public health from the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education in the School of Public Health. In the fall, he will begin medical school at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago.
Graduation celebrations like the API celebration are not commencement ceremonies where students get separate degrees. Instead, they are celebrations that honor the accomplishments of the minority populations at the University.
"These celebrations supplement the traditional U-M graduation and are held during graduation week to express appreciation for the achievements, commonalities and cultural differences that characterize the experiences of our diverse student body," said Gloria Derr Taylor, director of OAMI.
Other celebrations that took place throughout the week and weekend included the Middle Eastern/North African Celebration, Native Student Celebration, Black Celebratory, La Celebración Latina and Lavender Graduation, hosted by the Spectrum Center.
Lavender Graduation is an annual ceremony conducted on numerous campuses across the county to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally students and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the University.
Participants say the ceremonies are a way of celebrating their shared experience as a group, and not a rejection of official college graduations, which they also attend.
Middle Eastern/North African celebration
For first-generation college graduate Jad Elharake, the Middle Eastern/North African celebration is a special moment and one of the main highlights of the year.
"It was born out of a need to recognize the large population of previously unrecognized graduates," he said.
During his time at U-M, Elharake was a member of the Islamophobia Working Group and spent time advocating for the need of a Middle Eastern/North African category on university documents and forms that collect demographic data.
La Celebración Latina
With a renewed commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, U-M strives to be a community that allows all individuals an equal opportunity to thrive.
New York native Gloriela Iguina-Colón described La Celebración Latina as the culmination of her identity awakening that has been four years in the making. As a Puerto Rican student who attended predominately White schools, Iguina-Colón said it wasn't until she came to U-M that she felt she had a group of people who understood her experience as a Latina in the U.S.