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Commencement a long-awaited celebration for communication grad

May 6, 2024
A woman poses in a courtyard

KOKOMO, Ind. — When Kashlin Biffle crosses the stage at Indiana University Kokomo’s Commencement Tuesday, it will be a moment of celebration for her entire family.

“It means a lot to me,” said Biffle, from South Bend. “I am not a first generation college student, but I’m the first in my family to go straight to college from high school. I feel like I’m leading my younger siblings and cousins down the right path because they see me doing it.

“It’s not only for my own satisfaction, I also know my family is really proud and happy there’s someone who did it this way and paved the way for them.”

Commencement day means more to them than usual, because she missed many of the traditional rite of passage events when she graduated from high school in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though her high school had a ceremony, each graduate was only allowed to invite two guests.

“All of my family gets to be here to enjoy the experience with me,” said Biffle, who is graduating with a degree in communication arts.

She’s made her family proud along the way with her accomplishments, most recently winning first place presentation at the campus Undergraduate Research Conference for her paper, White Men Can’t Jump: A Rhetorical Vision of the Perennial Thorniness of Race in America.

She wrote the paper for a communication class, in which students chose a film that used symbolic convergence theory, which explores how the sharing of narratives can create and sustain group consciousness.

“This is a paper I had a lot of fun writing,” she said. “It took me a few tries, but it was very rewarding when I was done.”

The biggest challenge for her was talking about race in a way that invited people of all backgrounds to participate.

“Race is something that is difficult to talk about,” she said. “I knew I could use this as a means to bring unity and a sense of community with my paper. It allowed me to invite people into my world. If you don’t know what someone’s culture is like, or what it’s like to be a woman, or a member of a particular community, it gives you a way to understand. When you can understand people, you’re better able to communicate with them.”

The relationships she’s built on campus gave her the confidence to present her paper in front of an audience, and to continue her education. She plans to earn a Master of Business Administration at IU Kokomo.

“From freshman year to now, I’ve always been surrounded by professors and friends who believed in me,” she said. “That helped me become confident in my ability to speak in front of people, to be in a room and be comfortable interacting with anyone. I think that came from IU Kokomo. It’s a small community, but everyone’s really close. People are friendly, and willing to help you.

“I built really good, long-lasting relationships that will last long past my tenure here,” Biffle added. “Even after I finish my master’s degree, I will always have relationships with these people.”

In particular, she said her communication faculty provided positive guidance.

“They’ve watched me grow over four years,” she said. “Every year there are different points I’ve gone through, and they’ve been able to shed knowledge on any situation I’ve had. There are times I was confused and was able to talk to each of them and learn they didn’t have it all figured out at my age either. They have been really impressionable on my college experience.”

It all adds up to the person she is today.

“All of these things have contributed to my experience here,” she said. “It all came from being confident enough to stand in my own truth, to stand in being Kashlin Biffle, and my major being a communicator.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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Erin Witt, director of media and marketing

Danielle Rush, communications specialist

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