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Three alumni join Board of Trustees
By Hannah Marr, News Editor • June 21, 2024

Graduates share how faith guided them through difficult times

About 150 students of different religious backgrounds gathered Saturday to celebrate faith and diversity at the 14th annual Interfaith Baccalaureate Service.

Graduates, who practiced faiths such as Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism, shared how their religions helped guide them through their toughest challenges at GW.

Here are the top highlights from the ceremony in the Western Presbyterian Church on Virginia Avenue:

1. Challenge each other in order to understand each other

Alyssa Abraham, a 2012 alumna now earning her master’s degree in conflict resolution, stressed that graduates should appreciate different perspectives.

Her freshman year, Abraham had a heated debate with a friend about their differing beliefs, and they “both retreated from each other in frustration.”

Fearing they would lose their friendship, the two reconciled when they realized that the reason they were arguing was because they were trying to understand each other’s views. Abraham said the experience taught her she must be open to new ideas to benefit from others.

“Having this celebration today reminds me that my faith and my intellectual experience at GW have not been separate, but intertwined,” she said.

2. Learn from the unexpected

Sumedha Jani remembered how she struggled when she first came to GW, calling her family during countless nights in distress. But the discomfort of living in an unfamiliar place evolved into learning experience, she said.

Jani said by engaging in Satyam, a Hindu student organization, she learned to adjust to her new surroundings.

She started as a freshman representative and moved up the ranks to co-president, and Jani said she learned to be strong, focused and determined.

“These three years here have taught me that education goes far beyond the classroom,” she said. “Learning here comes from unexpected experiences.”

3. “Be not afraid.”

Christopher Crawford said through his involvement with the Newman Center, he grew into his Catholic faith, which he used to think only meant attending church every Sunday.

Crawford said he made it through his four years at GW by learning to not let fear prevent him from taking risks, reflecting on advice from Pope John Paul II to “be not afraid.”

“When it was time to take risks in my personal and professional life, I understood the risk to be worth it if my heart was in the right place,” he said.

Crawford also urged the crowd to have faith even in the most difficult times, pointing to the death of a number of GW community members during his academic career.

“While we have certainly been subject to far too many candlelight vigils over these last four years, the faith that these vigils represent make us braver and stronger as a community,” he said.

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