Skip to main content
around the college

Notable Events

Joy Harjo Visits WVU

Joy Harjo, the 23rd United States Poet Laureate and internationally renowned poet, author, editor, playwright and musician, visited the University in April. She was the second poet laureate to visit WVU.

Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is the first Native American to hold the position of U.S. Poet Laureate and the second person to serve three terms in the role. Her work encourages justice, peace and respect, and appreciation for Native American culture, language and history.

Joy Harjo


She presented an evening of poetry in the Mountainlair Ballrooms on April 5. To welcome Harjo to West Virginia, Mylan Park Elementary students created a watercolor banner that hung on stage and a painting based on her poem, “How to Write a Poem in a Time of War." Members of the community, including the Appalachian Prison Book Project, Madwomen in the Attic Poetry Workshops, and Literacy Volunteers of Monongalia and Preston Counties, staffed Ballroom display tables as part of a Tribute Exhibit celebrating Harjo.

joy harjo playing fluteHarjo began with a musical performance, followed by a reading of a collection of her poems. Between each reading, she discussed current events, how her heritage and culture influenced her art, as well as stories from her life. Harjo’s poems and stories recounted her life in Oklahoma, her relatives and their stories that were passed down.

“It's meaningful and touching to hear an undergraduate say he thought he didn't like poetry, but listening to Joy Harjo’s poems opened his mind,” said WVU's Native American Studies Program Coordinator Bonnie Brown, who initiated and planned Harjo's visit in collaboration with Renée Nicholson, WVU Humanities Center Director.. “These reactions are among the rewards of being an educator and also being able to host prominent Indigenous guests. Our students are gaining a depth of understanding and broadening their intellectual horizons.”

The event was hosted by Eberly’s Native American Studies Program, in collaboration with the WVU Humanities Center, and co-sponsored by Eberly College and the Department of English. It began with an introduction from Brown and a land acknowledgement from Christopher Chaney, a lecturer in the Native American Studies program and member of the Seneca Cayuga Nation.

“It was a pleasure to work with our wonderful WVU partners,” said Brown. “The combined in-person and virtual audience included more than 500 guests — perhaps the largest audience for a single Native American Studies event to date and a testimony to Harjo’s popularity as a contemporary writer.”

Before Harjo’s reading, she met with a group of graduate and undergraduate students to discuss her insights and personal perspectives on writing. Faculty from the English and Native American Studies programs were also part of the group discussion.

Joy Harjo has written nine books of poetry, children’s books, several plays and two memoirs. She has been awarded the 2019 Jackson Prize from Poets & Writers, the Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, chair of the Board of Directors for the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and has begun serving her six-year term as a Bob Dylan Center artist in residence. A talented musician, Harjo plays saxophone and flute, performs with her band nationally and internationally and has seven award-winning albums.

May Commencement

For the first time in two years, Eberly Dean Gregory Dunaway greeted students from the stage at the WVU Coliseum before shaking their hands as they received their diplomas. Eberly’s commencement ceremonies were back in person after a hiatus forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Approximately 1,000 students attended Eberly’s graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 15, 2022. They were joined by their friends and family, faculty and staff from Eberly College, WVU President E. Gordon Gee and University officials.

Students are finished taking final exams once they graduate, but according to President Gee, life itself has become similar to an endless final exam with ever-shifting questions. He shared his own message of hope for the future, commending graduates on their resilience and perseverance that got them to this point.

“In seemingly hopeless times, resilience arms us against despair and builds the courage to overcome obstacles,” he said. “And the hope you have honed to survive and thrive over the past two years will serve you well throughout your lives.”

Dean Dunaway commended students for succeeding in the face of great adversity during their time at WVU and reminded them that, while times have been hard, they can and will contribute to a brighter future. 

Dean Dunaway addresses the crowd of graduates"Our world demands that it be led by those who are not only highly educated and trained but by those who possess a desire to make our world a better place, a more respectful and just place, one that values the diversity of humanity and by those who will endeavor to persevere in accomplishing these goals," he said. "You might say individuals who possess a Mountaineer spirit. You are such individuals."

Honorary Doctoral Degree recipient Denise Giardina, a West Virginia native, citizen advocate and an award-winning author with six novels, addressed graduate degree candidates at Eberly’s first ceremony. She shared a story from her teenage years, when her mother bought her a book because their local librarian would not allow them to borrow it.

The book was Lord of the Flies, and Giardina was deemed too young to read it. Her mother bought it from a local bookstore, gave it to her and told her not to let anyone tell her she can’t read something – a lesson Giardina shared with the audience.

“Reading freely and asking questions is an essential component of a democratic society, and the questions that grow from that reading are more important and more necessary than the answers,” she said.

She encouraged the audience to always ask questions and to beware of anyone who tries to limit their ability to do so.

In the second ceremony of the day, Presidential Honorary Degree recipient Stavros Lambrinidis, ambassador of the European Union to the United States, also encouraged the audience to ask questions. Specifically, he told graduates to ask one important question as they move into the next chapter of their lives: why?

“More important than knowing what you want to do or how you want to do it, take the time to ask yourself why you want to do it,” he said. “In my experience, knowing your ‘why’ is fundamental to fulfilling your life’s promise, whatever it may be, and to use your potential to its fullest, to make good choices, and to succeed in a broader sense as a person with character.”

2022 Day of Giving

West Virginia University held its 2022 Day of Giving on March 9. To all who participated, thank you for supporting Eberly College! We couldn’t do it without you.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Elizabeth Dingess-Hammond and Derek Hammond gave $25,000 to establish the Fisher and Madeline R. Chafin Scholarship, which will help students from southern West Virginia majoring in the sciences at Eberly College.
  • Rebecca and Tim Chaffman gave a $10,000 matching gift to the Eberly Greatest Needs Fund to help us tackle rising challenges and opportunities.
  • Alexander Cruz gave $1,500 to the Global Medical and Dental Brigades Fund to allow students to travel the world and teach others how to live a healthier lifestyle.
  • Joseph Denny gave $1,300 to the School of Social Work Opportunity Fund to provide support for faculty and students giving back to the state in the field of social work.

Graphic Thank You