"We've seen so much in our four years," Giana Dawod said as she lined up among her classmates, preparing to walk across the stage and turn her tassel. "We've seen the riots, we've seen a lot of changes in administration, we've seen that the student body really have a voice."
Change. The word came up often as the soon-to-be Johns Hopkins University graduates assembled on the Royal Farms Arena concourse Wednesday afternoon and reminisced.
"I think in the past four years, we've seen a big uprising in student activism," added Huston Collins, a friend of Dawod's and a fellow neuroscience major.
It was remarkable, he said, to be on campus at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement began and to see the shift in attitude towards combatting sexual assault on campuses nationwide.
Quenton Bubb, a biophysics major from Brooklyn, New York, echoed those sentiments.
"We saw transitions in Baltimore that were integral in the city's history," he said. "As far as social activism goes—when someone considers the needs for it—it was right outside our window. "
Another common theme that ran strong throughout the day: friendship. The graduates snapped pictures together as they vowed to stay in touch, even as the next chapters in their lives take them around the world.
"A group of us had a lock-in at the Mattin Center, and we brought our sleeping bags there and spent the night," recalled public health studies major Anna Zeng. "I found a really good group of people. They really made my experiences here."
Lance Shen-Kinny agreed that the people he met along the way were among the most remarkable parts of his time at Hopkins.
"Everyone here is just as smart or more exceptional in so many areas of studies," he said, "and it makes you want to become a better student and a better person in life."
As she prepared to move into the arena and accept her dual degree in psychology and Africana studies, Sabrina Campbell fastened her cap, which was adorned with glitter and a bow.
"I'm ecstatic right now," she said. "I have like nine people waiting in the crowd for me to scream my name."