Spelman College recently announced the selection of its 135th Commencement speaker.
Alumna Stacey Yvonne Abrams, C ’95, politician, lawyer and author will deliver the keynote address to graduates during 2022 commencement celebrations on Sunday, May 15, 2022, at 3 p.m., in the McCamish Pavilion on the campus of GA Tech. Abrams will also receive a 2022 National Community Service Award.
Abrams served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017, serving as minority leader from 2011 to 2017. She graduated from Spelman magna cum laude with a degree in interdisciplinary studies and was named a Harry S. Truman Scholar.
In 2010, Abrams became House Democratic Leader in the Georgia General Assembly, the first woman to lead either party in the state legislature and the first Black Georgian to lead in the House of Representatives.
“Spelman College is fortunate to have a dynamic leader such as Stacey Abrams as an alumna. Her work has had a tremendous impact on our state and country and the African American community,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “She stands as an example for Spelman students of how lead effectively while navigating complex issues, like voting rights, equity, and civil rights. We look forward to all that Abrams will share with the class of 2022.”
This year’s graduating class will include five valedictorians, a salutatorian and several high- achieving graduates from across the country.
Post-graduation plans among many seniors include graduate school and starting careers in STEM, business, social sciences, medicine and the arts.
Graduating senior Jordan Barrant, C’2022, a comparative women’s studies major with a minor in art history and curatorial studies, is headed to the Art Institute of Chicago where she will pursue a master’s degree in visual and critical studies.
As a Quarterman & Keller Social Justice Scholar, Barrant worked on research projects focused on land ownership and racial injustice tied to America’s legacy of slavery.
The Quarterman-Keller Scholars Program was the first educational initiative established by the Reparations Project, a nonprofit managed by the descendants of an enslaved coastal Georgia family and the descendants of their enslavers.
“They say at Spelman, it is all about sisterhood and that’s true,” said Barrant. “My undergraduate experience was challenging and truly uplifting. Spelman provided me with the opportunity to collaborate with some of the brightest minds, and the honor of working side by side with other future leaders of the world.”
Elizabeth Alexander, Ph.D.
Honorary Degree Recipient
Dr. Alexander, president of The Mellon Foundation, is a decorated poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, and cultural advocate will receive an Honorary Degree.
Dr. Alexander is the author of Praise Song for the Day, an occasion poem delivered at the 2009 presidential inauguration of President Barack Obama. The poem is the fourth to be delivered at a United States presidential inauguration.
With more than two decades of experience leading innovative programs in education, philanthropy, and beyond, Dr. Alexander builds partnerships at Mellon to support the arts and humanities while strengthening educational institutions and cultural organizations across the world. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Alexander served as the director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, shaping Ford’s grantmaking vision in arts and culture, journalism, and documentary film.
Hana Sharif, C’2000
National Community Service Award Recipient
Hana Sharif, Artistic Director, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis will receive the 2022 National Community Service Award.
Sharif began her professional career as an undergraduate student at Spelman College. From 1997–to 2003, Hana served as the co-founder and Artistic Director of Nasir Productions, a theatre dedicated to underrepresented voices challenging traditional structure.
Sharif joined the Tony Award-winning regional theatre, Hartford Stage, in 2003. During her decade-long tenure at Hartford Stage, Hana served as the associate artistic director, director of new play development, and artistic producer and launched the new play development program, expanded the community engagement and civic discourse initiatives, and developed and produced Tony, Grammy, Pulitzer, and Obie Award-winning shows.
Starting in 2012, she served as Program Manager at ArtsEmerson, a leading world theatre company based at Boston’s Emerson College. ArtsEmerson, Sharif leveraged her regional theatre experience to freelance produce for smaller theatre companies looking to expand and restructure their administrative teams. ArtsEmerson, Hana leveraged her regional theatre experience to freelance produce for smaller theatre companies looking to expand and restructure their executive teams.
Sharif was Baltimore Center Stage’s associate artistic director from 2014 to 2019 and was the architect of the innovative CS Digital program: a platform that pushes the boundaries of traditional theatre and looks at the nexus point between art and technology. Her other achievements at Baltimore Center Stage include prototyping the Mobile Unit focused on historically underserved audiences, strengthening community engagement, producing multiple world and regional premieres, and helping to guide the theatre through a multi-million dollar building renovation and rebranding effort.
Sharif became the first Black woman to lead a major regional theatre in 2018 when she was named the Augustin Family Artistic Director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. During her tenure at The Rep, Hana has guided the organization through a strategic alignment, expanding access to underserved communities and centering equity and anti-racism as the organization’s foundational values.
Sharif holds a BA from Spelman College and an MFA from the University of Houston. She is the recipient of the 2009–10 Aetna New Voices Fellowship, EMC Arts Working Open Fellowship, and Theatre Communications Group (TCG) New Generations Fellowship. She is a founding member of The Black Theatre Commons (BTC). She serves on the board of directors for the TCG, BTC, and the Sprott Foundation.