Gustavus Adolphus College seniors Victoria Clark and Valentina Muraleedharan have been chosen by a committee of faculty, staff, and students to give a joint address at the College’s commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 1 at Hollingsworth field.
Clark is a native of St. James, Minn., who will graduate with a major in English. She has spent a year and a half serving as editor-in-chief of the Gustavian Weekly and is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the English Department’s honor society Sigma Tau Delta. Clark was also a member of Professor Elizabeth Baer’s 2012 January Term class “Commemorating Controversy: The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.” The class created a 12-panel exhibit that explores the war’s causes, voices, events, and long-lasting consequences, which has won several awards and is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
Clark says that her time at Gustavus has taught her the real value of community as well as what authentic community and fellowship looks and feels like.
“I will never forget the family I have made here, both students and faculty, who constantly encourage and challenge me to live more fully in truth and love,” Clark said. “I am thankful to my Gustavus community for having given me the chance to learn about and develop meaningful frameworks for how to live justly and compassionately both here and wherever I go.”
Clark cites several professors in the English Department as key mentors for her during her four years at Gustavus.
“My academic advisor, Professor Rob Kendrick, was a guiding light early in my time at Gustavus. The courses I took with him early on during my time at Gustavus were formative for me academically and personally—he opened my mind to entirely new worlds,” Clark said. “Professor Baer is another key mentor in my life. She inspires me so much and has galvanized my love for learning. She guided me down some incredible paths, including connecting me with my research experience at the Newberry Library in Chicago last fall. I am also lucky to have Ben Leonard, who is a fixture in both the Gustavus and St. Peter communities, as a mentor. He has been an incredible professional resource to me and really helped me to extend my networks beyond Gustavus.”
Muraleedharan is a native of Tlokweng, Botswana, who will graduate with a double major in communication studies and gender, women, and sexuality studies. She has been co-president of the Pan-Afrikan Student Organization for two years and chair of the Diversity Leadership Council for one year. Muraleedharan has also been involved with the Interfaith Advisory Board, the social justice theatre troupe I Am, We Are, the Collegiate Fellow program, and the communication studies honors society Lambda Pi Eta.
While Gustavus is thousands of miles away from her home in Botswana, Muraleedharan successfully found a home away from home during her four years at Gustavus.
“Gustavus has assisted me in creating the deep relationships I hold in my heart, in cultivating my passions for all that I dream to achieve, and for accepting me as one link in the chain that connects our community,” she said. “It has been here that I will remember the friendships I have built in the midst of social justice work and matters of diversity and inclusion on campus. I am so thankful that I could spend my past four years here—because through all the struggles, challenges, and obstacles, I feel as though I have grown infinitely and have acknowledged how much more is to come.”
Like Clark, Muraleedharan has made connections and become close to a handful of mentors at Gustavus who positively impacted her experience here.
“Jeff Anderson has played an influential role in my experience at Gustavus. From prior to my arrival in the United States, his positivity and genuineness were key components in my decision to come to college here. He has always been supportive and a great source of comfort,” Muraleedharan said. “Another incredible human being that shaped my life on the hill is Virgil Jones. When I first met Virgil, he communicated with me in a manner in which I knew he believed I was capable of anything—and as the years have gone by, this belief has strengthened in me too. He connected with and challenged students to always be the best person they could possibly be and seek to create and bring justice to our environments. He definitely inspired me to take my passions beyond Gustavus.”
If you are unable to attend this year’s commencement ceremony in person, you can watch the entire ceremony, including Clark and Muraleedharan’s speech, live online at gustavus.edu/commencement.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin