AWARES Holds Virtual Graduations to Celebrate Class of 2019-2020

May. 5, 2020
A class of AWARES participants during one of the graduations

The AWARES program took the celebration of its 5th class graduation online amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This year was the largest class of AWARES participants, with 41 students and 41 mentors actively involved. 

Since mid-March, AWARES activities were moved to virtual learning community and mentor-mentee meetings, much like Ohio State courses and other activities. Students and mentors have still been able to connect with one another to carry out the final activities of the year. The AWARES graduation ceremony took place over three nights in mid-April, where student learning communities joined together with their mentors and program staff to celebrate their year of growth and transformation and show appreciation of mentors. 

“Despite the difficult times engulfing us, we completed the AWARES program successfully this year,” says Gönül Kaletunç, Director of AWARES, who gives credit for this success to the positive response of all the program participants and staff who kept the AWARES community together. 

The AWARES Class of 2019-2020 students and mentorsMuch like years past, the AWARES graduation featured a keynote speaker. This year AWARES invited Dr. Jacquelyn C.A. Meshelemiah, Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at The Ohio State University, to present their talk, entitled “Mentoring Goes a Long Way: Use it Often and Wisely,” which was delivered virtually to the participants. In the presentation, Meshelemiah discussed the importance of mentoring and offered 26 tips for professional women emphasizing the curriculum topics of the program.  

During the virtual graduations, students and mentors discussed the importance of mentoring relationships and the tips shared in the keynote address. Students shared how appreciative they were for AWARES to pair them with a mentor, and that they plan to mentor future women in STEM fields in order to give back. 

The graduations were conducted in the same format as the learning community meetings to give mentors a glimpse of the student experience throughout the program. Even though the events were virtual, students and mentors still found closure to the end of the program. Mentors reflected that the virtual graduation offered more opportunities than previous years to hear from other students and mentors in the program and share ideas and opinions. 

One of the mentors, Amy Munz, stated that “This is great example of how people are adjusting to COVID-19. It was small enough to feel ‘intimate,’ but we still got to have some closure – and graduation pictures! I have enjoyed participating in the AWARES program.” 

For students, AWARES continues to be just as impactful as in years past. 

“I was convinced that the chemical engineering industry and engineering in general was wrong for me,” said Jeongin Kim. “But, once I began growing my relationship with my AWARES mentor, my outlook changed. I learned new tools to navigate the male dominated engineering industry, helped me grow my communication skills, confidence, and helped me find my overall identity as a woman engineer.”

Amanda Killian, a graduating senior in environmental engineering had a similar sentiment about the program as she reached out to Kaletunc stating “AWARES has made me so much more confident entering the work force and I feel so much more prepared to handle job situations. You and all the mentors are such an inspiration! I hope to be like you one day.”


AWARES is now accepting applications for the 2020-2021 academic year, please click here to learn more and apply.