OTHC Scholars Honored at Chancellor’s Home

OTHC Ceremony honorees and participants

On March 30, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud and his wife, Dr. Ruth Chen, hosted graduating Our Time Has Come (OTHC) Scholars and Leaders and their families at their home for a recognition ceremony and reception.

The Chancellor’s House event, a highpoint of the OTHC senior-year experience, was also attended by members of Syracuse University leadership. “This ceremony and reception is a special opportunity to recognize our graduating seniors, commemorate their experience at Syracuse University and recognize their successes,” says Maria J. Lopez ’05, G’12, assistant director of scholarship programs in the Office of Multicultural Advancement. “Receiving this recognition in the presence of the Chancellor and other senior leaders is very meaningful for our Scholars, many of whom are first-generation students or have overcome other obstacles and worked very hard to earn their Syracuse University degrees.”

At the ceremony, students were presented with OTHC stoles to wear at Commencement. This year, 57 OTHC Scholars and Leaders will graduate from Syracuse University, the largest cohort to date. “These graduates are testament to the generosity of our alumni,” says Lopez. “Due to their continued support, we have been able to increase the number of scholarships we can provide and the number of students we can support through leadership development and mentoring opportunities.”

The keynote address was given by Aisha N. Thomas-Petit ’98, a magna cum laude graduate of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, who earned a degree in marketing. Thomas-Petit is chief people and diversity officer of AMC Networks, responsible for overseeing AMC Networks’ people and culture strategy, including global talent acquisition, leadership development, employee engagement, compensation, and the company’s benefits and rewards programs as well as fostering a culture that attracts and retains the industry’s best leaders and storytellers.

Thomas-Petit began by sharing remarks she’d made 25 years earlier as a speaker at the School of Management graduation. “To all my brothers and sisters in the audience today, I represent you. For some see us as an exception to the rule, but I can tell you that we, as educated women and men of color, have contributed to becoming the norm.”

While people of color have more presence within the corporate world today, Thomas-Petit said that her experiences being a “first” or “only” over her 25-year career brought opportunity to inspire, enlighten and empower. “The human-to-human connection made the difference,” she said.

Thomas-Petit challenged students to have the confidence to know who they are and to share who they are. “Bring your full self into every space and watch its power,” she said. “One of the reasons we don’t make more progress in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts is because we are too busy grooming people to be the same. I tell executives all the time, especially on the topic of allyship, if you don’t know me, I mean really know me, how can you advocate for me?

“I am here because more than a few people said my name and spoke of my contributions when I wasn’t in the room,” she said. “Someone put in a vote of confidence in who I am. Someone saw me being my whole, ‘supposed to be here’ self.”

Remarks were also made by OTHC Scholars Ashley Bruce ’23 and David Barbier ’23.

Bruce credited the OTHC program for contributing to her professional development and self discovery. “I have been able to identify capabilities within myself that I wasn’t aware of,” she said. “I learned how to advocate for my individuality and honor my own contributions and achievements.”

Barbier shared his experience as the child of Haitian and Cuban immigrants coming to Syracuse. “During my time at SU, I shadowed CEOs, studied in South Korea, Italy and Spain, lived in Los Angeles, wrote television pilots, even had a movie audition . . . moments I wouldn’t trade for the world, Barbier said. “I dare you to dream of the life you wish to live and seize it.”

In addition to graduating seniors, the ceremony recognized OTHC Scholars with exceptional academic standing, regardless of class year. Nine scholars were honored for GPAs of 3.9 or above: Olivia Henderson ’23, Nadia Nelson ’23, Brandon Richards ’23, Tashakee Ledgister ’24, Kaura Reyes ’24, Sofia Rodriguez ’24, Myla Thomas ’24, Arianna Kuhn ’25 and Jacquelyn Trotman ’25.

“The OTHC program has been instrumental in my academic success,” says Nelson, who majored in policy studies and political science with a minor in sport management. “Knowing that there are advisors, students, and alumni who believe in my academic and professional dreams enough to provide me support and resources has motivated me to excel academically. To be recognized among my peers, advisors and administration leaves me feeling proud that as a first-generation student, I am continuously on the path of accomplishing my parents’ dreams, and most importantly, my dreams.”

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