Experience

Taking charge of CGA ceremony

Jan Garrison
 

Strogilos adds more pageantry

 

June 18, 2021

Ceremonial pageantry is a hallmark of Culver Academies.

“Tradition is integral to the Culver experience,” Elizabeth Strogilos ’21, who focused on Culver’s traditions for her Honors in Leadership seminar, explained. “We all know this.”

But Strogilos believed that the traditions associated with Culver Military Academy are perceived as more prestigious because of that pageantry. And, as a Culver Girls Academy student, she felt “undervalued” compared to her male counterparts.

So Strogilos decided to study the traditions involving CMA and CGA, focusing specifically on the Officers Figure, which is performed at the Fall Ball and Commencement Ball each year. What she found was she was not alone in her beliefs.

“My preliminary data found that Officers Figure is successful in honoring male leadership but is simultaneously sexist,” she explained. “Yet, female students wanted to participate due to social norms and presentation.”

That is when she started to develop the concept of the CGA Leader Charge with the support of alumni, students, the student life staff, and her leadership instructor, Dr. Stephanie Scopelitis ’83. CGA Dean Lynn Rasch ’76 sat in on Strogilos’ presentation in late February, where she presented her findings and offered the draft proposal to enhance the Senior Waltz.

“Elle had spoken to a number of current CMA and CGA students, faculty, staff and alumni and determined that there was an additional opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate our CGA leaders during our Fall Ball and the Commencement Ball,” Rasch said in an email. “Finding a solution for the disparity of recognition between CMA leaders participating in fall and spring Officer’s Figures and CGA’s spring Senior Waltz has been a desire of CGA staff and students for many years.”

“After attending the presentation, I was pleased to see the level of research and design thinking being applied to the task," she added. "I was hopeful about the level of constituent support for the proposal, and eager to see how it would evolve.”

Strogilos, who received the Brian Barefoot Social Entrepreneurship Award for her efforts, continued to work with the CGA Council and Assistant Dean of Girls Anne Kelley ’94 to make her vision a reality in time for graduation 2021. It was officially unveiled at the Commencement Ball on June 5. The ceremony, Strogilos said, “is intentionally structured to build a sense of community, promote leadership and achievement, and foster hopes and dreams by showing what ‘is’ and foreshadowing what ‘can be.’”

 

Elle Strogilos (left) and Lucie Diatta are saluted by CMA leaders.

 

The CGA Leader Charge has five movements:

Movement 1: CGA Seniors who served on CGA Council will begin the ceremony by processing through the arch before the stage where they will be presented with a flower, sash and medal designating her position by Junior Leaders as a sign of gratitude and respect for their leadership example.

Movement 2: Chairs will separate into four blocks (horizontal lines) consisting of leaders who served on the Common Council, as Dorm Chairs, Leadership Training Chairs, and Committee Chairs. CGA students who severed as multiple chair positions choose the block they walk with for the ceremony. 

Movement 3: After separating into four blocks, CGA Council members will be sashed, with white and gold sashes adorned with respective medal for her position on CGA Council. The blocks will move around the floor twice in a full circle representing their growth and development as leaders.

Movement 4: CGA leaders will conclude the walk and form parallel lines facing their peers and families in the audience. Top CMA leaders invited by CGA Council will form a tunnel of swords through which the CGA Charge will process. The CMA leaders’ participation signifies the collaboration, partnership and mutual respect between CMA and CGA Leaders.

Movement 5: After the CGA Council progresses through the tunnel of swords, they will be joined by their fathers and classmates who will all enjoy a ceremonial waltz with their father, father figure or mentor. The Senior Waltz has been a tradition within the girls’ school since the inception of CGA in 1971.

“The CGA Charge attempts to honor femininity and independence simultaneously while being visible and structured, demonstrating the importance and tradition of female leadership within Culver Academies,” Sogilos wrote.

For Rasch, “standing on the review line to witness the celebration of CGA leadership at the inaugural CGA Leadership Charge, I was struck by how beautifully it represents the philosophy of our founding dean, Mary Frances England, that students and staff would collaborate to shape CGA in their vision.”

“I believe she would be pleased to see how far our school has come in creating an environment that fosters critical thinking and a system that empowers student voices.”

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