The Rites of Passage Ceremony is a pre-commencement celebration to honor Black and Latinx-identified students who through resolute persistence have successfully completed an Undergraduate or Graduate degree at Rutgers University – New Brunswick. The event recognizes their accomplishments, hard work and dedication, while simultaneously acknowledging the accomplishments of their families and networks of support. Distinguished speakers, student awards, live performances and the incorporation of African culture and traditions – specifically the culminating Kente Stole presentation – all add to the vibrancy of this celebratory day. A reception with food and beverages will follow. All guests are welcome.

The Kente Stole Presentation

During the ceremony, each graduate will be presented with a Kente cloth, native to Ghana. Often reserved for royalty by the Ashanti people, the Kente Stole Presentation acknowledges that achievement is made possible by the support of family, friends and loved ones. This “passing of the torch” recognizes the contributions and sacrifices of our ancestors on whose shoulders we continue to stand in pursuit of our goals.


Participation in the Rites of Passage Ceremony is open to all Black and Latinx Rutgers University – New Brunswick Undergraduate and Graduate students who have earned their degree between January 2017 and October 2017. In order to participate, students must register by April 30th, 2017. Only students who have registered by this date are guaranteed to receive a kente stole. All participating graduates must also wear academic regalia, which can be purchased from Barnes & Noble Rutgers Bookstore. Register for the 2017 Rites of Passage Ceremony HERE.


There are several ways that the Rutgers University community (students, staff, faculty and alumni) can participate in the 25th Annual Rites of Passage Ceremony. Community members can audition to be a speaker/performer or volunteer to staff the event to ensure a successful and spirited experience for our 2017 graduates. Please see below for available participation opportunities.

One of the most exciting components of the Rites of Passage Ceremony are the student speeches that are addressed to the graduating class, families and other ceremony guests! Each year one graduating student is selected to deliver a riveting speech that inspires our graduates, reflects on the student experience (including challenges and accomplishments), and connects the ceremony theme to our graduates’ post-grad transition. The 2017 Rites of Passage Student Speaker has been selected! Thank you for your interest!

One of the most exciting components of the Rites of Passage Ceremony are the student performances and entertainment, enjoyed by our hundreds of guests! We’re looking for performing artists (singers, dancers and spoken word poets) who are interested in sharing their craft with the 2017 graduating class.

The 2017 Rites of Passage Student Performers have been selected! Thank you for your interest!

The Rites of Passage Ceremony is a signature program in the Black and Latino community at Rutgers and has existed for 25 years because our community participates, lends support and is invested in the planning/execution process. See HERE to sign up to volunteer on the day of Rites of Passage!

We’d like to invite RU Faculty/Staff to join us in our faculty/staff opening procession and closing recession at the 25th Annual Rites of Passage Ceremony. Faculty/staff who are interested in joining the Paul Robeson Cultural Center will be seated on stage and in the first few rows (given the final count) and are required to wear their academic regalia. See HERE to register for the Faculty/Staff 2017 processional!


Recognized in Education Week as one of the 10 most influential professors in the field of education, Shaun R. Harper is an expert on race, gender, and student success in urban high schools and in higher education. He is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he founded and serves as executive director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education. Dr. Harper has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and other academic publications, and received more than $12 million in research grants. Johns Hopkins University Press is publishing his 13th book, Race Matters in College. His research has been cited in more than 5,000 published studies. He is president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chronicle of Higher Education, and over 11,000 newspapers have quoted Professor Harper and featured his research. He has interviewed on CNN, ESPN, and NPR. This July, he is joining the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education faculty as the Clifford and Betty Allen Professor in Urban Leadership and executive director of the USC Race & Equity Center.


Who can attend the 2017 Rites of Passage Ceremony?

The ceremony is open to all black and latinx-identified Rutgers University – New Brunswick Undergraduate and Graduate students who have earned their degree between January 2017 and October 2017. All Rutgers University community members are invited to join us in celebration on a first come, first served basis.

When and where will the Rites of Passage 2017 Ceremony be held?

The Rites of Passage Ceremony 2017 will be held on Wednesday May 10th, 2017 from 3pm – 5pm at the Rutgers Athletic Center on the Livingston Campus. The address is 83 Rockafeller Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854. Please see here for travel directions.

The Rites of Passage Ceremony Reception will be held immediately after in the Scarlet Lot (outside of the Rutgers Athletic Center) from 5pm to 7pm. Refreshments will be served and all guests are invited.

Where do graduates line up for the ceremony?

Students will need to check-in at 2:00PM at the Rutgers Athletic Center. If students aren’t checked in with Event Staff by 2:30PM, they will not be part of the procession into the ceremony and instead, will be seated afterwards.

What is the dress code for graduates?

Graduates are required to wear their academic regalia to the Rites of Passage Ceremony. All regalia can be purchased from the Rutgers University Barnes & Nobles Bookstore beginning April 1st, 2017. Please see below for contact information.

Barnes & Noble at Rutgers, Gateway Transit Building
100 Somerset Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

What can/can’t I bring to the Rites of Passage 2017 ceremony?

Guests are welcome to bring personal photographic and video recording devices, as photo/video will be allowed. However, guests will be asked to use those devices from their seats. Food will not be allowed in the Rutgers Athletic Center.

Where can I park for the Rites of Passage Ceremony?

Guests may park in Lots 105, 112, Green & Yellow on the Livingston Campus without permits. Special event parking and special event permits are only for visitors to the University, which does not include free metered parking. Faculty, Staff, and Students must park only in lots they are authorized to park in. Parking info can be found here.

How do I coordinate accommodations for a physical disability?

To request disability accommodations for a guest or graduate, please contact the Paul Robeson Cultural Center by May 1st, 2016 via email at rop@echo.rutgers.edu. You will receive a confirmation of your accommodations within two business days.

How can I contact the Rites of Passage organizers with miscellaneous questions or concerns?

If you have any questions or concerns related to the Rites of Passage 2017 Ceremony, please email rop@echo.rutgers.edu. You will receive a response to your inquiry within two business days.