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As the Lycoming College Class of 2019 walked across the dais to collect their diplomas, much occurred behind the scenes to make the experience a truly celebratory occasion for the dozens of graduates’ family members who do not speak English as a first language.

Lycoming College students translated the written 2019 Commencement program, as well as the keynote address and other remarks made during the ceremony into multiple languages.

With a student body comprised of dozens of international students, as well as domestic students for whom English not their first language, Lycoming College is dedicated to diversity and inclusivity. Campus programs are designed to deepen socio-cultural awareness and foster a broader worldview, and a strong focus on experiences outside of the classroom serves to produce scholars who are more compassionate and willing to look at the world from different viewpoints.

This culture prompted a graduating senior to raise the question of whether any accommodations could be made for non-English speaking family members at 2019 Commencement. A small group of faculty, staff, and students determined that it could provide a written translation of the event program into Chinese, French, Spanish, and Vietnamese, as well as a real-time translation of speeches into French, Spanish, and Vietnamese using a transmitter/receiver solution.

Preparations began in early 2019 to acquire the equipment needed, while translation of the program and speeches did not occur until closer to the event. On the day of Commencement, approximately 25 parents and grandparents of 2019 graduates were provided over-the-ear receivers to hear the speeches in their native languages.

“This initiative is in keeping with the Lycoming College tradition of underclassmen supporting graduating seniors at commencement,” said Sandra Kingery, Ph.D., Logan A. Richmond Endowed Professor of Spanish at Lycoming College, and a key member of the translation team. “Many student volunteers showed enthusiasm for the project, and saw it also as an opportunity to build skill sets in a real-life application and build their resumes. In the end, the College was able to further demonstrate a sense of belonging and full participation.”

“I like the fact that the student felt comfortable enough to ask for translation for their families,” said Dan Miller, Ed.D., vice president for student life. “Our community took the request and found a solution that I hope made a momentous event even more special for families and students. This is the first time we have enabled non-English speakers to hear the very important messages shared on this celebratory day.”

The following students assisted with the translation of commencement day remarks:

  • Vietnamese: Ha-Anh Nguyen ’22 (Hanoi, Vietnam) – criminology and psychology major
  • French: Ansharah Saib ’21 (Phoenix, Mauritius) – actuarial science, math and economics major
  • Spanish: Annabelle Brinkerhoff ’21 (Narrowsburg, N.Y.) – biology major, Spanish minor; Mayra Moreno ’22 (South Plainfield, N.J.) – biology major, music minor

The following students assisted with printed program translation:

  • Vietnamese:  Ha-Anh Nguyen
  • French:  Itashna Geerwar ’20 (Riviere du Rampart, Mauritius) – math major, French minor; Ansharah Saib
  • Spanish:  Caleb Beard ’21 (Williamsport) – Spanish major, music minor; Abril Cardenas ’19 (Dayton, Texas) – criminology major, Spanish minor; Esmeralda Luna ’21 (Houston, Texas) – Spanish and political science major, Latin America studies minor; Aaron Willsea ’20 (Wellsboro, Pa.) – business administration major, Spanish and Economics minor; Julia Nagle ’20 (Altoona, Pa.) – Spanish and political science major, history mino; Angelina Fernandez ’20 (Bartonsville, Pa) – business administration and economics major; Spanish minor
  • Chinese:  Xinyue Miao ’22 (Chengdu, Sichuan, China) – business administration major; Jiaoyang Fu ’21 (Zhengzhou, China) – corporate communications and economics major

The College plans to make the service a regular offering at Commencement, as well as for New Student Convocation in the fall.