Parade of International Color
All Together One. President Rose said it many times during his inaugural speech. Members of JMU's international community displayed it with native dress, while everyone in attendance celebrated JMU's history, future, diversity and oneness. All Together One.
The hot, sunny Constitution Day, Sept. 17, and the elegant JMU Quad were a radiant backdrop for a palette of colorful academic and cultural costumes worn by faculty and students. The inaugural procession began with the entrance of JMU faculty robed in academic regalia and a parade of international students, faculty, staff, and band member volunteers carrying multicolored flags from the 94 countries represented in the JMU community.
"I thought it was a great way to show our diversity," says Bijan Saadatmand, director of JMU's international programs and professor of psychology, who originated the idea for the native dress. "Diversity is a necessity for our campus community, especially when we have altogether close to 720 international students, faculty and staff from 94 nations… The processional was colorful pageantry."
Saadatmand, originally from Iran, carried the Iranian flag and wore a simple peasant costume from the Gilan Province in northwestern Iran, where his parents were born. His costume consisted of full black trousers, shalvar, which fit tightly around the ankle and lower part of the leg, with a wide, pleated and draped upper portion gathered around the waist; a white cotton shirt or pirhan; a black vest called a jeli-gheh; a red silk sash, called a kamar-bandeh abrishami that wraps around the waist; and a red-burgundy headdress, called a kollah-taleshi. "The ensemble may be as old as Iranian history," says Saadatmand, "maybe over a thousand years."
Smitha Rai, a graduate student who was born in India but lives in Saudi Arabia, showed a true spirit of embracing diversity. She carried the Saudi flag while wearing traditional Indian dress. "It wasn't something we were required to do, but it was a way to show our school spirit," she says. "I'm really fond of JMU. I think more than anything, I did it for the university."
Rai wrapped herself in a flowing piece of gray fabric, commonly called a sari. The sari is only one of many traditional garments worn by women in India, yet it has become the national dress. A sari is a rectangular piece of cloth five to six yards in length. The color, texture, and style in which the sari is draped are indicative of a woman's status, age, occupation, region and religion.
"It's a very old costume worn in different ways in different areas of India," says Rai. "I think there are about four to five ways of wearing it. We did have something similar in the 11th century, but I think it came about in the 17th century. Women still dress in them today. It's not just something they wear on special occasions. It's very much traditional Indian dress. A presidential inauguration is not something that happens all the time. We were showing our respect while displaying our diversity."
Other students were simply proud to share a part of their country's culture and tradition. Filip Razvan Ghitescu, a graduate student from Romania, carried his country's flag and wore traditional Romanian folk clothing. When he first came to the United States this summer, Ghitescu brought his costume especially for the ceremony.
"I wore a white shirt embroidered with red floral geometrical patterns," he says. "Red is a color that suggests vitality and life and confers protection against evil spirits. The geometrical floral patterns represent the symbol of youth. I also wore a belt with the national colors of Romania: red, the color of vitality and life; yellow, the color of the grain fields under the summer sun; and blue, the color of the Romanian sky. The Romanian folk costume has its roots in the clothing of our ancestors, the Thracians, Getae and Dacians [from about] 500 B.C."
Freshman Satoko Odagawa, a Japanese national, wore a yukata, which is made of cotton and comes in variety of colors and patterns. "It's a one-piece, and the skirt part comes to your knees … You tie a thick bow around your waist. It's like the kimono, but more casual," says Odagawa.
The yukata and kimono are traditional Japanese dresses originating from the seventh century. The kimono is more formal than the yukata, a summer leisure dress. The yukata is made of lightweight cotton and most are navy blue and white, but girls and young women sometimes wear brightly colored floral patterns. The fabric is draped across the body from left to right and is held in place by a sash or obi.
"I thought it would be very interesting for other people to see something they would not see on anyone else," says Katia Komanska, a graduate student and the only representative on campus from Bulgaria. Komanska marched in the processional wearing a costume that has been in her family for three generations.
"The costume I was wearing is from the western Bulgaria region," she says. "I am from the city of Kustendil, but my costume came from my parents' village Chetirtci."
The dress was made for Komanska's grandmother when she was about 16 to 18 years old and was worn on special days, particularly to dance parties and religious celebrations. The costume consisted of five pieces: the main dress, called a kazmir; a koshulia, worn under the main dress; a shirt or nagradnik worn over the torso,; a skuta, similar to an apron; and a belt or poias. This style of dress was common in Bulgaria in the 1920s.
Accompanying the display of native dress was the academic regalia worn by the faculty, a tradition dating to European Middle Ages. In the 12th and 13th centuries, caps and gowns were adopted by scholars and clerics to distinguish themselves from others in town and to protect themselves from the chilly stone buildings of colleges in that era.
The apparel evolved to what is commonly worn by graduates and professors today as based on standards set by the American Council of Education, according to Sue Good, an employee at the JMU bookstore who has been handling cap and gown orders for 10 years.
The faculty gowns vary in color and style depending upon the degree held and the university attended, while student gowns vary by the degree being earned and the area of study. Most schools, including JMU, use black gowns for all degrees, however a few colleges use their school colors.
"The bachelor gown has a pleated front and pointed sleeves," says Good. "The master gown is very similar except for the special sleeve design. The sleeves have a small opening at the wrist and there is a long, squared panel that is an extension of each sleeve."
The hood is the basic symbol of academic achievement, according to Good. The size and shape of the hood reveals the degree level, with the bachelor hood being the smallest and the doctorate the largest. The outer shell is black while the colors used in the satin lining are those approved and authorized by the college awarding the degree. The velvet trim color indicates the degree earned.
The colors used on the lining of hoods worn by JMU graduates are: gold for bachelor's or master's of science, white for bachelor's or master's of art, brown for bachelor's or master's of business, dark brown for bachelor's or master's of fine arts, apricot for bachelor's of nursing, citrus for bachelor's of social work, light blue for master's of education, pink for bachelor's or master's of music, silver for bachelor's of general studies and peacock for master's of public administration.
Another distinguishing characteristic of the academic costume is the cap. While the bachelor and master's caps are most often four-sided black caps with tassels of different colors and fabrics depending on degree, the recipients of doctoral degrees have more unique caps. These caps are tams - round, flat caps of Scottish origin, made in soft black velvet with either four or eight sides.
Barroso, originally from Cuba, chose to wear this costume, instead of another he usually wears, to mark the historic occasion. "It was going to be the last inauguration in which I was going to be a participant," he says reflecting on his retirement in December. "I selected to use it this time as something different and special."
The variety of participants and costumes in the ceremony not only showed the wealth of cultures and backgrounds on campus, but also demonstrated the school being united to take on the future. Ghitescu predicted, "Starting with Dr. Rose's inauguration, JMU entered a new stage in its history, a stage we hope will bring a better fulfillment of our wishes and needs."
by Kara Carpenter ('00)