Virtual Rainbow Graduation 2021

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021| 6 p.m. EST on Zoom

The Rainbow Graduation Celebration honors the achievements of Rutgers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) identified undergraduate and graduate students. The event acknowledges the challenges and triumphs experienced in their careers here at Rutgers University. We use this occasion to honor students who have continued our traditions of pride and activism. The celebration is a complement to a traditional graduation ceremony such as University Commencement or other celebrations hosted by academic departments. Graduating students who register will receive a Rainbow Graduation certificate as well as a rainbow graduation tassel (limited supply only).

We invite community members to register and attend the event to support our honorees and graduating students!

Graduating seniors, required registration closed Friday, April 23, 2021. For any questions or concerns, email us at sje@echo.rutgers.edu.

Awards and Recognition

Lionel Cuffie Award Winner 2021: Shaan Williams!

Lionel Cuffie was the founder of Rutgers’ first LGBTQIA+ student organization in 1969. The organization, then called the Student Homophile League, still exists today over 50 years later as the Queer Student Alliance. Lionel Cuffie graduated in 1972 and went on to inspire young activists across the country. The Lionel Cuffie Award for Activism and Excellence will be given to a graduating senior who identifies as LGBTQIA+ and has contributed substantially to growing and supporting the LGBTQIA+ community during their Rutgers tenure.


Shaan, over the last 4 years we have seen you grow and blossom!! Shaan’s journey at Rutgers has included leadership positions in many organizations, including LLEGO, Transmissions, Queer & Christian, and Queer Caucus, the umbrella council made up of our 13 affiliated student organizations. Shaan has been an important part of recent Queer Caucus initiatives, like updating over 100 signs for gender-inclusive bathrooms on campus and hosting an LGBTQIA+ Town Hall meeting this past fall semester. Shaan has also used her voice as a panelist during several public events this semester, including but limited to,  the LGBTQIA+ Health Colloquium and EDGE New Jersey’s Trans Day of Visibility program. We are extremely proud of you, Shaan. Thank you for all you have offered of yourself to our communities.

In February of 1988, the former President of Rutgers University, Edward J. Bloustein, created the President’s Select Committee for Lesbian-Gay Concerns whose mission it was to address the issues of LGBTQIA+ students as well as University faculty members. In the spring of 1988, the Select Committee for Lesbian and Gay Concerns assembled and presented specific courses of action the university could take to seriously mitigate the injustices directed towards the LGBTQIA+ community on campus. Today, we recognize the labor of outstanding undergraduate leaders with LGBTQIA+ Taskforce Awards. 


Congratulations RYLEE REDMAN!

 As a part of the fabric of the Diversity Peer Educator program, a staple in the Residence Life RA community and an involved justice centric student leader; Rylee has displayed her ability to educate and transform communities here at Rutgers University and beyond. She has been a part of the vast educational offerings we have in our DPE program and continues to enhance those sessions with each presentation. Rylee’s thoughtful approach to advocacy through reflection, accountability and a call to action as a DPE is remarkable and that is why we honor her with the Taskforce Award.




Congratulations SAM TRAN!

We recognize Sam as a standout peer leader.  Sam has served as a Peer Mentor in multiple different capacities on campus including working as a Peer Mentor with the Asian American Cultural Center and as a Q-mmunity Leader, supporting our orientation program for new incoming LGBTQIA+ students. Sam’s investment in mentoring opportunities shows his investment in building and sustaining the community. Sam also carves out space for authentic expression in his role as President of LLEGO, our student organization for LGBTQIA+ students of color. Sam’s intellectual curiosity, creativity and compassion have made him a successful leader.




Congratulations ELAINE MILAN!
Elaine Milan has been a major force of leadership within our communities. The student organization Queer & Asian was founded in 2010 as a way to cultivate community for students living at the intersections of those identities. The continued success of this organization has been facilitated by Elaine’s leadership as President. Elaine’s values of inclusivity and openness are great assets in making others feel welcome. Elaine also combines their caring nature with a grounded consistency that makes them a highly supportive peer. Elaine has also extended their service to Queer and Christian as well as Queer Caucus, where most recently they served as Vice President. 

The Dr. Cheryl Clarke Award: In 1992, the Center for Social Justice Education & LGBT Communities was founded under the direction of Dr. Cheryl Clarke. Today we honor Dr. Clarke’s legacy with an award in her name which is granted to a faculty or staff member who has advocated for the LGBTQIA+ community within their roles on campus.

Award criteria:

  • Current Rutgers faculty or staff member
  • Demonstrates high level of involvement and advocacy for LGBTQIA+ communities at Rutgers


This year’s winner is ANNMARIE BURG.

AnnMarie Burg is our administrative assistant at the Center for Social Justice Education & LGBT Communities. AnnMarie has provided over 10 years of outstanding service in this role under 3 Directors, including Jenny Kurz, Dr. Zaneta Rago-Craft, and Keywuan Caulk. We recognize AnnMarie for being an amazing and reliable colleague who always puts forth extra effort to ensure that our students are well taken care of. AnnMarie has been an essential mentor and supporter for so many students connected to the Center. We are deeply grateful for you! Congratulations AnnMarie!


The Dr. Zaneta Rago-Craft award is granted to outstanding members of our community who offer exceptional leadership, campus involvement, and commitment to campus change. Dr. Zaneta Rago-Craft served at SJE from 2012-2018. Some of her leadership highlights included: creating gender-inclusive housing options on campus, the implementation of a preferred name system, and improvements to trans-affirming student healthcare. During her tenure, the office was repeatedly recognized as being among the top 30 most LGBT-friendly campuses by Campus Pride.


This year’s winner is ERIK ESQUEDA

Erik has served for the past two years with our office as the Graduate Program Coordinator. Erik has been a dedicated and cherished member of our team. Some of Erik’s leadership highlights include: co-advising our LGBTQIA+ leadership council, Queer Caucus; presenting Safer Space training to our faculty and staff communities; supervision of Peer Mentors in the Rainbow Perspectives housing community; involvement in programs like A Dream of Healing; and much more. Erik, we are SO proud of your achievements during your time at Rutgers and we look forward to the amazing contributions you will continue to make to higher education. Erik is earning a Master of Education degree in College Student Affairs.

We have a rich tradition of activism and advocacy among LGBTQIA+ student leaders at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. The “Service to Community” recognition acknowledges the work that student leaders do above and beyond the scope of SJE and affiliated student organizations. 


AVERY HEIMANN (they/them) is a sex educator, LGBTQ+ advocate, social worker, and healthcare worker.  They are vocal in their passions around bodily autonomy, youth welfare, disability justice, and anti-oppressive pedagogy.  They are a member of the Phi Alpha Honor Society for Social Work as well as Gamma Eta Rho for Sexuality Education and Iota, Iota, Iota for Gender and Sexuality Studies.  Avery infuses their praxis within academia and on the ground, teaching with Newark-based non-profit The Masakhane Center for 13 years, interning at Princeton-based HiTOPS for two years, and working as a Patient Service Representative for Robert Wood Johnson’s Babs Siperstein PROUD Center.  They are a firm believer in accessibility, accountability, and intersectionality in action and apply their lifelong punk DIY ethics to challenge kyriarchies in all realms of life. Thank you for your service, Avery.



SYD ROSEN says: “My time at Rutgers has truly been transformative, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve the Scarlet Knight community in so many different ways. My work at VPVA has been particularly gratifying, and helped me discover my passion for health education. I can’t wait to continue enriching people’s lives and learning how best to support my community as I go on to study for my Master’s in LGBTQ+ Health at the Rutgers School of Public Health.” Thank you for your service, Syd.

We recognize outstanding graduate students for their contributions to SJE and for their active participation in advocacy and community building efforts.


Congratulations Matthew Diaz!

Matthew says: These past two years have truly shaped me and helped me see the kind of student affairs practitioner I want to be. It has been special to have people in my corner supporting me and pushing me to succeed. I am grateful for the opportunity to supervise and advise students. I am also proud of creating and proctoring a workshop for trans and non-binary student leaders.






Congratulations Chelsea JacksonJones!

Chelsea says: Thank you so so much to the SJE family for welcoming me and making the enormous Rutgers Community feel like a family! I’m so happy to have been a co-developer on Beyond Safer Space trainings and cannot wait to see how they evolve and impact the community in the future. While my time at Rutgers-NB has been short I have grown exponentially as an ally and advocate, and I promise to take everything I’ve learned with me on my next journey. Congrats to the class of 2021!





Congratulations Wyatt Matern!

WYATT says: My time at Rutgers has flown by, but while I have been here I have had the opportunity to get to know so many wonderful people. Working at SJE and supporting the Diversity Peer Educators was one of the most meaningful projects I have been a part of while at Rutgers. I feel honored to have learned from the talented and caring students and staff in the Center, and I am proud to have been a small part of its history.

Want to nominate someone for an award or recognition? Sorry! Nominations closed Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

Please considering submitting a nomination next year!

Interested in getting involved with our LGBTQIA+ alumni group?

Join the RU Rainbow Alumni League! 


@rurainbowalum on social media



What is the mission of the RU Rainbow Alumni League?

The Rutgers University Rainbow Alumni League represents and promotes the interests and liberation of the LGBTQIA+ alumni of the university, and all alumni within the diverse spectrum of gender and sexuality.

Goals Include:

1. Honoring the legacy and history of LGBTQIA+ advocacy at Rutgers
2. Promoting a diverse, inclusive, and affirmative environment within the university
3. Maintaining an active and engaged alumni community that contributes to the greater good of the university through service, philanthropy, and advocacy
4. Fostering and sustaining a sense of community among LGBTQIA+ alumni and the larger alumni community, serving as a bridge between current and future alumni
5. Supporting, mentoring, and advocating for the LGBTQIA+ students of the university
6. Building partnerships through collaboration with the Rutgers Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities – New Brunswick, the Intercultural Resource Center – Newark, Points of contacts at Camden, RBHS, and all Rutgers organizations that can help advance our goals.

Check out our virtual graduate stole on Snapchat!

Be sure to tag @RUSJELGBT when you share on social!
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