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Galas & Graduations: A Time for Reflection

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Korbel Communications

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Spring in Denver arrives full of sunshine-filled days, leisurely strolls through the ample outdoor space in the city, finals for Korbel School students, and inexplicable snowstorms in the middle of May. For roughly half of Korbel’s graduate student population, the festivities also include the ritual of graduation. As second year students frantically juggle applying for jobs, writing papers, and socializing with their peers, it can be trying to find time for reflection and celebration with the larger graduating class.

Korbel Graduate Student Association (KGSA), the student government for Korbel School graduate students, identified a need for such a space, and designed a gala event as such a festivity.  Held on the last Friday of the ninth week of classes, the Gala featured food, drinks, and ample space for getting jiggy on the dance floor.  For graduating second year graduate students, the event is an opportunity to mingle amongst familiar faces one last, school-sanctioned, time. For first year graduate students, the event represents one last hoorah before departing for summer internships, jobs or travel. One attendee, Anne Lauder, shared, “the event was a perfect way to end the quarter and it was a great way to celebrate before starting to work on finals.”

For the graduating class of 2022, the Gala capped a remarkably irregular two years of graduate school, as the pandemic uniquely altered their graduate experience. Arriving in Denver (even as many peers remained remote and distant) with little to no understanding of what school would look like as the raging virus forced classes online and socializing to a minimum, the class of 2022 made the best of the situation, and persevered throughout the ups, downs, and fluctuations in campus Covid rules and protocols. For two graduating students, Saraf Nawar and Wondemneh Pawlose, the Gala allowed them the time to pause and contemplate on their enigmatic experience at the Korbel School.

Nawar, a second-year international development student from Bangladesh, saw her time at Korbel as integral on her path towards being an international human rights attorney. She arrived at the Korbel School serendipitously after attending a lecture in Florence, Italy led by Korbel professor Tim Sisk. While talking with Sisk after the lecture, he encouraged her to apply to Korbel where she is now graduating. Nawar truly appreciates the kindness of her instructors, noting the kindness of Professor Aaron Schneider’s throughout a class she took with him. “Professors really try to help you as much as they can, and they really try to understand your situation as best as they can” noted Nawar. She also appreciated how her peers are “self-aware, and make sure to not offend those who come from other background than theirs.” For the incoming class of Korbel School graduate students, Nawar advised them to “spend as much as time as possible to get to know your colleagues and professors.” For Nawar, the Gala was a great “reminder for the friendships we formed.”

Pawlose, a second-year international development student and the KGSA president, unfortunately could not attend the gala. “I heard the gala was great, and it was a great opportunity for people to connect with new people. It was also a great chance for people to not worry about classes or anything else, they could just dance and have fun.”  As Pawlose continues exploring the job market after graduation, he effusively praised his time at the Korbel School. He highlighted his cohort, the faculty, and staff, saying “the faculty is passionate, caring, and very smart…some of the most helpful people have been the staff….and I have had some friendships that will last me a long time.” His time at Korbel has also influenced his professional goals. “My time at Korbel has led me to continue my passion in the development field and pursue a PhD program in the near future.” For the incoming class, Pawlose suggested to “try to have an outline on what your two years will look like, especially for classes” as it helps maximize one’s time at Korbel.

Though only two graduates are in this article, their sentiments reflect the opinion of the graduating class of Korbel, and the gala allowed one last opportunity for Korbel students to gather with the people who made their time at Korbel special.  


This article was written by Korbel School MA student Colin Babikian.