Office of International Affairs to host 11th annual sash ceremony



South Dakota State University’s Office of International Affairs (OIA) is all set to host its 11th annual sash ceremony May 5 at Great Hall in McCrory Gardens. 

The sash ceremony is an event held to celebrate and recognize international students that graduate from SDSU every year. Students are given a sash of the country they belong to and wear them during their commencement day. Graduating students show up in huge numbers wearing their traditional attire or business casuals. 

“We host this event every year as a way of not really saying a goodbye, but we would love to celebrate everyone’s accomplishment,” Islamiah Fuad, international student adviser at the OIA, said.  

The sash ceremony has often seen many dignitaries present at the event to share their thoughts for the graduating students. An undergraduate or a graduate student representative would deliver a speech on behalf of the students. Graduating international students also bring family members and friends to celebrate the occasion. 

“For the commencement, the seating plan is different, but for the sash ceremony, we allow students to sit with their family members so that they can celebrate with each other,” Fuad said. “Our assistant vice-president for International Affairs (Jon Stauff) puts the sash around students, and then they head over to McCrory Gardens if they wish to take photos.”  

McCrory Gardens has become a traditional spot to host the sash ceremony, as the spring weather makes it feasible for students to roam around and get some good pictures post-ceremony.  

The OIA will have about 105 international students, both undergraduate and graduate, attending the sash ceremony this year. 

“I would say that every year we have about 350 attendees for the sash ceremony every year,” Fuad said. “Each student is allowed to have up to three guests for the event.” 

Graduating students RSVP ahead of time for their family members, friends and for themselves. The Office of International Affairs staff put in a combined amount of hard work to organize a sash ceremony every year. 

“After students confirm their attendance, we gather how many sashes we need for various countries and who all would attend along with the number of guests we are expecting,” Fuad said. “Once we get a list prepared, we send out emails to everyone about the details of the sash ceremony and the itinerary.”  

The first sash ceremony for international students took place in 2012, when former Director of International Students and Scholar Services Greg Wymer had joined SDSU. 

“At his previous institution, they had a sash ceremony for all graduating international students,” Fuad said. “Greg liked it a lot and he decided to introduce the event here at SDSU.” 

Prior to her role as an international student adviser, Fuad herself had been a student at SDSU and attended the sash ceremony in 2017, 2021 and 2022. 

“I would say I felt special and appreciated,” Fuad said. “To see that I got the opportunity to wear my flag during the graduation ceremony and be proud of where I came from made me feel recognized.” 

Sudarshan Choudhari, a software developer at KBR Inc. and former SDSU international student who graduated in 2022 with a major in computer science, described his experience as a joyful feeling during the last sash ceremony. 

“The event made me feel that though I come from a different part of the world, I am still a part of the jackrabbit family,” Choudhari said. “The sash gave me a feeling of having represented my country on a global platform, even if it meant to be at the university level.” 

This year, the top three countries that international students are graduating from at SDSU are India, Bangladesh and Nepal respectively.