On April 12, UNC Global hosted its fifth annual naturalization ceremony in conjunction with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium of the FedEx Global Education Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The ceremony celebrated the naturalization of 59 new American citizens who came from countries across the world, from Argentina to Vietnam, as they all took the oath of allegiance and received their official certificates of naturalization.
Raymond Farrow, associate provost for global affairs and interim chief global officer at UNC-Chapel Hill, provided the opening remarks and keynote address for the ceremony. Farrow spoke on the importance of immigration in shaping the fabric of the United States, and how vital immigrants have been to the history of the University.
“UNC’s motto is lux libertas, light and liberty,” Farrow said. “Nothing, to my mind, can be a greater testament to that sentiment, and our commitment at UNC to our global mission, than this ceremony today. We are honored to welcome you into the family of U.S. citizens.”
Farrow went on to highlight the diversity of immigrants in the United States, which was reflected in the group of new citizens gathered at the ceremony. Cadence, one of UNC-Chapel Hill’s all-female a cappella groups, performed the national anthem, as the UNC-Chapel Hill Army ROTC Color Guard presented the colors.
Didem Havlioğlu, teaching associate professor in Turkish in the Department of Asian Studies, provided her perspective on the ceremony as a newly naturalized U.S. citizen herself.
“Over the years, I lived in different parts of the U.S. while studying and working in higher education while raising my son as a bilingual and bicultural young man,” Havlioğlu said. “We discovered the many cultures of the U.S., made friends from all over the world, and eventually it has become our home. While we still celebrate our country of origin, the U.S. became our adopted country as we share its core values of inclusivity, diversity, and freedom of speech.”
Following Havlioğlu’s remarks, USCIS Officer Elizabeth Kenny administered the oath of allegiance to the group of new citizens. Elizabeth Barnum, director of International Student and Scholar Services at UNC-Chapel Hill, called each candidate to the stage to present them with their certificates of naturalization alongside Farrow and Kenny.
This is a particularly meaningful event for Ingrid Smith, manager of global events and exhibitions for UNC Global and coordinator of the ceremony. “My mother emigrated from Germany to the United States when she was 10 years old and became a U.S. citizen at age 16. Every year, I look forward to organizing these ceremonies since I know firsthand the process these candidates have gone through to receive their certificates. It is a true honor to be able to share this moment with them,” said Smith.
After the ceremony, the new citizens, their families and friends celebrated the important event with a reception in the Florence and James Peacock Atrium of the FedEx Global Education Center. The League of Women Voters were present during the reception and assisted 24 new citizens with their voter registration.