Fashion statements

When seniors walk in the Commencement procession on Saturday, many will be showcasing study abroad experiences, family heritage, home countries and international connections by wearing custom-made sashes that reflect those elements.

Recently, 124 students received the sashes they ordered at a ceremony presented by the Global Education Center in Balfour-Hood atrium.

Each sash tells a story.

Kelvin Ampem-Darko ’17, a neuroscience major who grew up in Ghana and studied abroad in Spain, chose a sash that has the colors of the Ecuadorian and Spanish flags because “those two countries represent the first times I challenged myself geographically,” he says.

“Prior to Wheaton, I had never thought of traveling to other countries,” says Ampem-Darko, who is deferring medical school for one year to explore the culture of care-taking in Zimbabwe, India and Bolivia.

Nicholas Liotta ’17, a political science major from Flushing, Queens, N.Y., chose a sash “to represent the places I’ve gone, home and abroad, that made my Wheaton experience special”—the United Kingdom and the United States.

“In many ways, the choice to study abroad in the U.K. for a full year gave me an appreciation for other parts of the world, but it also allowed me to further appreciate what the U.S. and Wheaton have offered me,” Liotta says. “The sash represents how taking risks can help you truly realize how fortunate and lucky you are to even have such opportunities. There was a time when I never thought that I would get too far away from home, but my college experience has given me a new perspective.”

Senior Anna Craig’s sash also features the flag of the U.K., as well as Bhutan, noting her internship in London as well as time spent in Bhutan working for a non-governmental organization and conducting research.

“For me, my junior year abroad was the pinnacle of my Wheaton experience and integral to my development as an individual and as a globally minded citizen,” she says. “It was without a doubt the best year of my life and the most fun I have ever had. I have no doubt that 40 years from now I will still be thinking of riding the Tube in London or of hiking the Himalayas in Bhutan.”

The tradition of special graduation sashes dates back more than 15 years to the early years of the Center for Global Education. Initially they were offered for purchase to those who had studied abroad, and then the tradition was extended to international students, those who had been on faculty-led programs overseas and, more recently, to all students of color, through the Global Education center’s partnership with the Marshall Center for Intercultural Learning.

A parent in 1996 also gave graduating seniors of color Kente cloth sashes to wear. And over the years several members of cultural groups have added customized sashes as part of their regalia. Students who serve as Global Education Center peer advisors also receive the sashes as a gift to recognize their service.

Jenish Amatya ’17, who is from Kathmandu, Nepal, will be wearing a sash that represents his home country.

“The crimson red is the national color for Nepal and also is indicative of the brave spirits of the Nepalese people,” he says. “The blue border is symbolic for peace and harmony that Nepal has always stood behind. The depiction of celestial bodies represents permanence, the hope that Nepal will last as long as the sun and the moon.”

Amatya, an economics major, says it was important for him to order a sash because of how much community is treasured at Wheaton.

“The members who create this community bring experiences from cultures all over the world. My sash is a humble reminder of where I come from and what I bring to Wheaton,” he says.