More than 90 students expected to complete baccalaureate requirements in December celebrated their distinctive paths at Brown’s annual Midyear Completion Ceremony.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Student orator Maya Faulstich-Hon — a Costa Rica native and longtime undergraduate peer advisor at Brown — earned the honor of addressing her fellow students at the University’s annual Midyear Completion Ceremony on Dec. 2.

Before the event, which recognized students expected to complete degree requirements in December 2017, she said that writing an address to her fellow “.5ers” proved a challenging task.

Among many experiences at Brown, Faulstich-Hon and fellow students launched the social venture Kulisha, an enterprise that supplies animal feed made from fly larvae. Photo: Nick Dentamaro

“There is no one experience that unites us all, and if anything, we should resist this temptation to think that everyone who took time off was doing something inspiring or amazing,” Faulstich-Hon said. “Some people took time off for reasons that weren’t so great — a death in the family, maybe, or financial reasons. It’s nice to have this ceremony as a marker of affirmation — that you still matter even if you did things differently and that this is a cause for celebration.”

Despite great diversity in the experiences that led them to midyear completion, more than 90 students and enough family and friends to pack the Salomon Center for Teaching had a common cause for celebration.

“People often speak of .5ers with an assumption of deviancy,” Faulstich-Hon told the audience on Saturday, choosing to use her speech to celebrate the distinctiveness in her fellow students’ stories.

“We strayed from the normalized path. Something didn’t go as planned. Something went wrong. Let’s dissolve that story. It doesn’t have to be wrong, or right, or not normal… Four years is a great amount of time to go through college. So is three and a half. Four and a half. So is five, so is seven, so is 10.”

Faulstich-Hon celebrates with friends after the 2017 Midyear Completion Ceremony in Brown's Salomon Center. Photo: Brian E. Clark

During her years on College Hill, Faulstich-Hon developed a deep interest in food systems as she worked with SCRAP, the University's student composting club. Ultimately, that led her to a concentration in environmental studies, where she focused on conservation science and policy.

She and fellow student Viraj Sikand landed both a Social Innovation Fellowship and an Embark Fellowship from Brown’s Swearer Center to launch the social venture Kulisha, an enterprise that supplies animal feed made from fly larvae as a sustainable alternative to conventional feed, much of which is made from wild-caught fish. Kulisha, named after the Swahili verb “to feed,” is now based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Faulstich-Hon plans to relocate next month.

VIDEO: 2017 Midyear Completion Ceremony

In addressing students and families, Brown President Christina Paxson said that an unyielding commitment to solving complex challenges facing the world — whether an environmental concern like Kulisha is addressing or in any other realm — is a hallmark among so many who complete undergraduate studies at Brown.

“You are prepared to be agents of change for the greater good…” Paxson told the students. “Go out and fix what needs fixing. Share your wisdom and your discoveries with the world. Do what you love. And do this knowing that we at Brown could not be any prouder of you for completing your degrees and for doing so on your own terms, in your own distinctive ways, on your own timetables. That’s, after all, a hallmark of surviving and thriving at Brown.”

Andre C. Willis, an assistant professor of history and religion who offered remarks on behalf of the Brown faculty, echoed that charge, imploring students to build on their opportunity to earn a college degree to expand opportunities for others beyond campus.

“The global community may not know it, but it needs your gifts and your light,” Willis said. “Go in either peace, or rage, or somewhere in between, or whatever the situation demands for you to be effective.”

The Brown Jabberwocks sang the national anthem to kick off the ceremony and the Brown alma mater at its conclusion. Photo: Brian E. Clark