When Shalini Hanstad ’22 first received a nomination last February to be a student speaker at spring commencement, she was both surprised and hesitant. “I wasn’t sure it was something I would want to do, or capable of doing,” Hanstad said.
The Sociology & Anthropology (SOAN) major had been nominated by Professor of Anthropology and Department Chair Jennifer Hubbert. The instructor had taught a number of Hanstad’s classes and had served as her thesis advisor. Through these interactions, the two formed a close bond.
When Hubbert received an email asking faculty members to nominate students, Hanstad was the first person she thought of.
“She represents all that is really special about this campus and embodies what the SOAN department hopes for its students,” Hubbert said via email.
Hubbert’s support, coupled with Hanstad’s realization that this could serve as a vital opportunity to speak on behalf of her community, encouraged the senior to accept the nomination. She entered the competition with little expectations.
“I went in with the mindset of whatever happens, happens,” Hanstad said.
All of the nominated seniors gathered last month to present their speeches to a committee of select students and faculty members. Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tim McCrory served as the committee chair. Hanstad recalls being surprised that she was the only student of color within the nominees present.
“There’s a lot more weight on your shoulders when you’re the only one there,” Hanstad said.
The turnaround was quick. Within two days, Hanstad was notified that she had been selected to represent the senior class at graduation. Hanstad’s speech is centered on the importance of cultivating one’s community in college. She emphasized the importance of her community at LC.
“The biggest takeaways I’ve had have been the lessons I’ve learned through my community and my classmates,” Hanstad said. “I would say I’ve learned more from the community than I have from the institution in general.”
Hanstad has spent her time at Lewis & Clark developing and supporting community events for students of color. She has been involved with the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement in various ways, including as a Great Expectations mentee. Hanstad is of South Asian Tamil descent, and represented South Asia at the annual International Fair prior to the pandemic. She also served as the co-president of Mixed LC for three years.
Most of Hanstad’s favorite memories at LC are centered around the Race Monologues. She recalls joining the organization her freshman year, a time when she did not know many other students of color and felt overwhelmed attending a Predominantly White Institution. That year, Hanstad performed during the Race Monologues at the encouragement and support of the upperclassmen coordinators.
“Even though I wasn’t huge on poetry or creative writing, it was the first place that I could feel comfortable with other students of color,” Hanstad said. “That was a very surreal experience.”
The Race Monologues made Hanstad feel as though she was part of a meaningful community. Hanstad went on to perform at the monologues all four years of her time at the institution. She also worked as a coordinator for the Fall 2021 Race Monologues. It was the monologues that introduced Hanstad to the Ray Warren symposium, and she ended up working as a co-chair for its Fall 2021 event.
In addition to these noteworthy accomplishments, Hanstad has kept quite busy since her arrival to Palatine Hill in 2018. She has worked as a receptionist for the College Advising Center and the Office of Student Accessibility. Hanstad also worked for the Admissions Office as a tour guide, and currently works in the Teaching Excellence Program for Associate Professor of Sociology Bruce Podobnik.
Throughout her time in the SOAN department, Hubbert notes that Hanstad “has a curiosity about the world that seems to be motivated by both concern about the structural violence of the social and political worlds of the contemporary era, but also a love for and sincere belief in the kinds of humanity that are possible.”
In addition to being a SOAN major, Hanstad is also an Ethnic Studies minor. She loves the way her minor has intersected with her major, allowing her to take a number of courses in that department. All of her favorite classes at LC have been in the minor.
“I always tell people that if Ethnic Studies was a major here, it would be my major,” Hanstad said.
Hanstad was also the Student Academic Affairs Board representative for the Ethnic Studies Department during the Spring 2021 semester. The senior holds a lot of respect for the department and hopes that LC increases its funding in the future, which would allow it to expand.
As Hanstad looks back on her time on Palatine Hill, she believes that she has had to teach the institution, giving them more takeaways than they have given her. However, she holds hope for future changes to come for her community.
“I’ve seen a lot of change happen at the institution in the four years that I’ve been here, but I’ve seen the possibility for so much more to happen,” Hanstad said. “At times it was frustrating knowing how much this school is capable of, but ultimately when I leave I just have hope.
Hanstad believes that a number of students, and alumni, are craving changes and looking forward to the ideas they have planted come to fruition.
“There’s so many ways that Lewis & Clark can show up more for marginalized students, students of color, low-income students, queer students, disabled students,” Hanstad said.
One day, Hanstad hopes to be able to say she is proud of LC for all of the changes they have made.
“I really hope I can look back at my alma mater and say ‘I’m proud of the ways that they’ve changed’ even though I wasn’t proud of all the time that I spent there,” Hanstad said.