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 2018 and October 2018. In order to participate, students must register by April 30th, 2018. 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 2018 Rites of Passage Ceremony HERE.


There are several ways that the Rutgers University community (students, staff, faculty and alumni) can participate in the 26th 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 2018 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.

If you’re interested in delivering a speech at the 2018 Rites of Passage Ceremony, please complete the interest form HERE. The deadline to apply is Friday March 30th, 2018 at 11:59pm.

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 2018 graduating class.

If you’re interested in performing at this year’s ceremony, please apply HERE. You’ll be contacted within 3-5 days for an audition.The deadline to apply is Friday March 30th, 2018 at 11:59pm.

The Rites of Passage Ceremony is a signature program in the Black and Latino community at Rutgers and has existed for 26 years because our community participates, lends support and is invested in the planning/execution process. Sign up HERE to volunteer at Rites of Passage by April 30th, 2018 at 11:59pm.

We invite Rutgers Faculty/Staff to join us in our faculty/staff opening procession and closing recession at the 26th Annual Rites of Passage Ceremony. Faculty/staff who are interested in joining the Paul Robeson Cultural Center will be seated on stage and are required to wear their academic regalia. Register HERE for the Rites of Passage Faculty/Staff processional by April 30th, 2018 at 11:59pm.


Dr. Nancy Mercado is the recipient of the American Book Award for Lifetime Achievement awarded by the Before Columbus Foundation.

Dr. Mercado is the editor of the Nuyorican Women Writers Anthology published in Voices e/Magazine, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College – CUNY; an online literary journal. A guest curator for the Museum of American Poetics, she is also assistant editor for Eco-poetry.org; a website dedicated to addressing the issue of climate crises.

Featured on National Public Radio’s The Talk of the Nation, and a PBS NewsHour Special, America Remembers 9/11, Dr. Mercado has authored: It Concerns the Madness (a poetry collection), Las Tres Hermanas (a children’s coloring book), and is the editor of if the world were mine (a children’s anthology). Published in numerous anthologies throughout the United States and abroad, she also authored 7 theater plays which have all been produced.

In 2015, Dr. Mercado traveled to Havana, Cuba by invitation, to present her work at Casa de las Americas.

Nancy Mercado continues to present her work throughout the U.S. and abroad. For more information, visit her website here.


Who can attend the 2018 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 2018 and October 2018. 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 2018 Ceremony be held?

The Rites of Passage Ceremony 2018 will be held on Wednesday May 9th, 2018 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 on Henry’s Lawn (Across from Rutgers Cinema) 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, 2018. 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 2018 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?

Event Parking will be announced by April 1st, 2018. Please stay tuned.

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, 2018 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 2018 Ceremony, please email rop@echo.rutgers.edu. You will receive a response to your inquiry within two business days.