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Fabric of family

Janelle Naomi Rouse, who gave the inaugural Invited Student Lecture, focused on family when writing the essay she submitted for consideration.

Rouse, a junior psychology major from Washington, D.C., wrote about her grandmother, Lillian Rouse-Thomas. Her essay describes her grandmother as the thread in her family quilt. “She is the strong, silent and unseen piece that connects all of the members of our family in ways that we never think of,” she wrote.

The Invited Student Lecture connected Women’s History Month and the book chosen for the Freshman Common Experience, The Beautiful Struggle, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Coates wrote about his mother, describing her as a powerful person of quiet strength, and therefore students submitted essays to be considered for the Invited Student Lecture about a strong woman in their own lives.

“It definitely felt emotional because it’s so close to my heart,” Rouse said after her presentation. “It’s my experiences and my family. But it also gave me the confidence to do these sorts of things again, because I had such a good response to it.”

The Invited Student Lecture was sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the Office of Community Engagement and Diversity Initiatives, and the English Department.

“I’m excited because we have many other invited lectures that feature expert speakers or faculty speakers, and we have not had a student lecture series, and so we thought this was a perfect opportunity to invite a student to write an essay based on their personal reflections and also based on the freshman common reading, and to present it in an invited lecture format,” said Michelle Meekins-Davis, director of Multicultural Student Affairs. “We thought this was a great opportunity.”

The lecture took on extra meaning because Rouse’s grandmother was able to be a part of the audience.

“It meant a lot to be able to speak those words directly to her,” Rouse said.