Presidential Inauguration: A Celebration of Student Life

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claudia sanchez
Photo Credit: claudia sanchez/foghorn

Claudia Sanchez
Staff Writer

McLaren Conference Center was covered in student research projects, art, and volunteer work presentations last Wednesday to celebrate student life as part of the events honoring the inauguration of the Rev. Paul Fitzgerald, S.J. This exhibition was not only meant to display student work, but also show how it personifies the university’s mission. 

Students performed an interpretative dance called “Fitzgerald’s Recipe for Success,” playfully highlighting USF’s new president’s love of cooking, as well as his life story and achievements. Sienna Williams, a Performing Arts and Social Justice Major, was a part of the dance ensemble who performed for the president. Williams said the performance for the inauguration was nerve-racking, “but we wanted to do something sweet and special for Father Fitzgerald’s Inauguration.”

Fitzgerald praised the student work.  “We’re celebrating the students, you are the reason that we are here. Your success, that you thrive, that you flourish, that you bring to bear all your gifts and talents, this gives us joy. We the faculty, the staff, the administration, the trustees, we all are here for you,” he said.

Eva Long, ASUSF Senate President, introduced Fitzgerald, who gave a short speech about the importance of student involvement at the university. With the exception of Fitzgerald’s introductory speech, the whole event was completely centered on undergraduate and graduate students and their work.

Justin Brillo, a senior Design Major, also exhibited his art at the event. His paintings focus on raising awareness for the Filipino Veteranos. They are a group of veterans who joined the US Army for benefits and citizenship, but were unfairly deprived of these things, and erased from the history books. This was Brillo’s second time exhibiting this particular series of artwork, which served as his thesis project.

“The concept of my project is on the Veteranos and the representation of them,” Brillo said. “They are only represented in small history book paragraphs, but I wanted to expand on it and show their involvement.”

The four paintings showed the history of the Veteranos through four major events: the US Army attacking the Philippines with Filipino soldiers that fought for the US Army for government benefits, the suffering of both Americans and Filipinos in the Bataan Death March, the final attainment of their US Citizenship and benefits, but subsequent poverty and separation from their families, and the Filipino youth now fighting for the recognition and benefits for their family members who gave so much to the country.

Dylan Moore, a sophomore Psychology major, exhibited her project which analyzed whether or not transgender or gender dysphoria should be present in the Diagnostics Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. Moore was part of the Martin Barrio Scholars program and did most of her research there. This scholar program focuses on teaching greater goal skills to examine social issues. Moore said that exhibiting her research at the Student Life event was “awesome and intimidating, but I’ve enjoyed seeing what other students have done and talking about my project.”

Moore also expressed her happiness about USF’s pushes towards gender inclusivity, particularly the gender neutral bathrooms, and the upcoming all-gender floor.  She voiced her feelings by adding, “I feel great about the push to gender neutral bathrooms and upcoming floor. I like the slow integration of them, it’s very responsible.”

Fitzgerald touched upon the university’s diversity, which seemed to be the most important aspect of his inauguration, as well as on the importance of the student population and its involvement.  “If you look at our diversity and our student population, we’re the envy of most big universities, we’re wonderfully successful through our students…You come in very gifted, very capable, but [through] your education here, you take it to a whole deeper level because of your deep engagement, your deep involvement,” said Fitzgerald.

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