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Sonalee Rashatwar Selected as 2016 Student Speaker for the Graduate Commencement Ceremony

Sonalee Rashatwar receives a graduate award.

Widener President Julie E. Wollman (left) and School of Human Service Professions Dean Paula Silver (right) present Sonalee Rashatwar with a graduate award for service.

Sonalee Rashatwar of Voorhees, New Jersey, was selected as the 2016 student speaker for Widener University’s Graduate Commencement Ceremony held Friday, May 20. Rashatwar graduated with both a Master of Social Work and a Master of Education in Human Sexuality.

Throughout her academic career at Widener, Sonalee has been outstanding in the classroom and in the community. She has developed into a recognized leader in expanding the field of sex therapy beyond a white perspective, presenting and guest lecturing widely throughout the region on sexuality issues as they relate to gender, race, body image and religion.

For the past year, she has been employed as a sexual assault counselor at Services Empowering the Rights of Victims in Vineland, New Jersey. She previously interned as a healthy relationships group facilitator for the Wesley House Shelter of the Community Action Agency of Delaware County.

“If I can offer you just this one piece of activist therapist advice, it would be to get better at trusting yourself and learn to be bold,” Rashatwar said to her fellow graduates during her Commencement speech. “Commit to helping others more. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great, because greatness is determined by service.’”

Rashatwar serves on the executive committee of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network, and she previously served as co-chair of the Widener Center for Human Sexuality Studies Human Sexuality Careers Conference.

In July 2015, Rashatwar organized the East Coast Solidarity Summer, a three-day retreat for South Asian youth focused on giving them a politicized sense of self. She is currently working with a team of volunteers to organize this summer’s retreat.

For her efforts to serve others and give voice to underrepresented populations, Rashatwar earned the Widener University Community Service Leadership Award at this year’s Graduate Awards Ceremony.

Dr. Sabitha Pillai-Friedman, an assistant professor in Widener’s Center for Human Sexuality Studies, described Rashatwar as “an extraordinary person who is absolutely fearless and very committed to social justice.”

Rashatwar earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and geography and urban studies with a concentration in women and gender studies from Temple University in May 2011. She is a 2006 graduate of Eastern High School. She is the daughter of Subash and Sangeeta Rashatwar of Voorhees.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del. are proud to be a tobacco-free. Visit the university website, www.widener.edu.