Actress Alum to present at Commencement
Alumnae and Alumni of Vassar College announced on Monday, April 8, that alumna Sakina Jaffrey ’84 will present the senior class banner at Spring Convocation on April 30. Jaffrey stars as Kinda Vasquez, the White House Chief of Staff, in the Netflix series “House of Cards.”
An alumnus or alumna performs the presentation of the class banner at spring convocation to the president of the senior class, and then makes a speech to the audience. Last year, Kenneth Miles ’07 presented the class banner to President of the Class of 2013, Vincent Marchetta ’13.
In his remarks to the graduating class, Miles said, “Use the tools you have acquired here at Vassar and beyond these campus walls and classrooms. Pay it forward for others. In the small towns big cities, and countries you are from, and the small towns, big cities, and countries where you may wind up.”
Jaffrey may reflect on her years at Vassar as well. During her time at the college, she studied Chinese Language and Literature. While Jaffrey took an introductory theater course and set design course, she never acted during her time as an undergrad.
In 2004, she said she originally planned on becoming a translator: “I really wanted to act, but I didn’t want to admit it, so I studied Chinese and figured I would to work as a translator” (Boca Raton News, “Actress Sakina Jaffrey: Getting Used to the Red Carpet, 7.4.04).
She told the Vassar Office of Communications in Sept. 2013, “I felt like I shouldn’t waste my parents’ money studying to be an actor. But after I left college and considered the careers I could pursue, I realized I couldn’t pretend I wanted to do anything else but act.”
After graduation, Jaffrey began taking acting lessons while working as a waitress to support herself. She began her acting career in New York City.
On the fact that her major at Vassar does not reflect her current line of work, Jaffrey said, “…Just remember: If you’re in college and don’t know what you want to do with your life, that’s okay. I look back now and I realize a lot of what I learned at Vassar I applied to my career in ways I could never have anticipated.”
Fans of “House of Cards” have shown excitement for Jaffrey’s involvement with this year’s Spring Convocation. “I’m really happy Sakina Jaffrey is an active member of our community,” said Sophomore Class President Max Moran ’16. Moran continued, “I’m really excited an actress from my favorite show will be at Convocation.” Jaffrey’s acting credits also include the 2002 film “The Truth About Charlie,” starring Mark Wahlberg, 2004’s “Raising Helen” along with her son Cassius Wilkinson and daughter Jamila Wilkinson, and “The Ode” in 2008.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April is national Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Beginning in 2001, SAAM was started by the Resource Sharing Project and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. At Vassar, the Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention (SAVP) Program and CARES peer listening service coordinate SAAM. In previous years, Vassar had only commemorated a “Sexual Assault Awareness Week (SAAW),” rather than month. The program has expanded this year to include events throughout the month of April as opposed to events limited to just one week. Some events have carried over from SAAW. CARES will hold their second SpeakOut of the semester in the Mug on April 14, where guests could share their experience to a listening audience.
Another event that Vassar participates in annually is the “I Feel Strong” T-shirt campaign, where Vassar students wear teal shirts that say, “I feel strong” to show their support. This year, the project will take place on April 23. CARES is sponsoring several additions to the SAAM program. On April 15, the LGBTQ center will hold an event called, “Surviving Stigma: How to Support Queer Male Survivors of Domestic Violence.” An Art Show and Open Mic will close Vassar’s first ever SAAM on April 30.
Other changes to Vassar’s celebration of SAAM also include the flyer campaign: CARES members posted brightly colored flyers with validating phrases on them. These phrases include, “I hear you”; “I believe you”; and “You have the right to feel this way.” To raise further awareness, CARES and SAVP table throughout the month.
Other events that took place as apart of SAAM include a lecture by Dr. Gail Dines on April 4 entitled “Pornland.” Dines, an acti-pornography activist and author, discussed how masculinity and femininity are shaped by our image-based culture. Furthermore, a screening of “Very Young Girls,” a documentary about the sexual exploitation of girls in New York City, took place on April 8.
This year’s SAAM accompanies releases of survivor stories to the press. One such story is “Dear Harvard: You Win,” an account written in the Harvard Crimson about the aftermath of a sexual assault that occurred on Harvard’s campus. There has also been a movement on Twitter called “#DecolonizeSAAM.” Throughout the month, the hashtag is used to call attention to violence aimed at women of color. Asian-American activist Suey Park tweeted on March 31, “#DecolonizeSAAM is in response to white feminism pushing “solutions” that increase violence against women of color and increase state power. One can keep up with this year’s SAAM by liking the Vassar SAAM: Sexual Assault Awareness Month page on Facebook. CARES at Vassar and Vassar SAVP have Facebook pages as well.