Ask the Commencement Speaker
by Liz Dobbins (’21)
Former student body president Sabi Lowder (Honors ’19) told herself that this year was the one for risk-taking. She planned to do everything that seemed scary, and speaking at commencement was one of those things. A communication and cultural studies custom major, Sabi will not only be graduating this year, but she was also chosen as the Class of 2019 commencement speaker. Read along to find out more about her time at Westminster and her plans after graduation.
In the last few days leading up to graduation, what have you found yourself reflecting on?
“I live with my first-year roommate. I have been reflecting a lot with her on things from our first year specifically. Reflecting on who we were when we were 18 versus who we are now, a lot of mistakes we have made, and also a lot of love and nostalgia for the people we used to be. I have also been thinking about who has really shaped my experience at Westminster, what were the pivotal moments that shaped my experience, who were some of the professors, and who I have to say thank you to. And there are a thousand people.”
What were some of those pivotal moments and who did define your experience at Westminster?
“Entering Honors was something that really shaped my Westminster experience. Also, I took Intro to Gender Studies my first year with Kara Barnette, and it has been a foundation for anything I have thought ever since. I thought I wanted to go pre-med before I came to school. The person I was working with in the Start Center knew I was interested in gender and made sure I got into a gender studies class. I dropped out of biology immediately—I didn’t even take the first test. That class with Kara led me to doing a custom major and conducting summer research on sexual violence. It also led me to communication; it was my springboard into the humanities. I owe Kara Barnette a part of my soul.
The most pivotal moments were that I got the opportunity to explore big questions about myself and the world. It’s very cliché, but I feel like I got the most coming-of-age, college-exploration-of-who-you-are experience. I am so grateful for it. I lived in the residence halls and I was a dumb idiot my freshman year—and it was amazing. After I was done being a dumb idiot and having a lot of fun, I had best friends who are still my best friends, and I got to explore questions and curiosities and build my own major. I got to do all these different things I wouldn’t have gotten to do if I had gone anywhere else. Each of these little steps gave me the confidence to know I have the right to ask questions in the world.”
What were the research projects you worked on?
“I did research on advocacy for survivors of sexual violence. I also did research on Bears Ears with one of my best friends. We did looked at how Bears Ears has been communicated as a movement and how the narratives change based on who’s telling the story.”
What sparked your passion for social justice and gender?
“When I was a first-year, what was sparking my passion was different than what is sparking my passion now, but it is all really interrelated. The starting point, where I started caring about all of this, was that my mom is from Afghanistan, my step mom is from Mexico, and my dad is from Idaho. My whole life has been a big exploration of how to talk to different people, what each of my parents is bringing to my own perspective, and how we communicate across that. How I fit amongst difference.”
What did Westminster give you that you wouldn’t have gotten somewhere else?
“For me, Westminster as a whole gave me a bunch of confidence that I would not have gotten anywhere else. I came to Westminster and I felt like I had a place where I could explore things. I could try on different identities and become a different person and grow and be outspoken and do all of these things I didn’t have the courage to do before. Had I gone to a big school, I would have never tried to go for student government, I wouldn’t have done research, and I probably wouldn’t have the connections with professors that I have now.”
Where do you picture life taking you after graduation?
“I work for a documentary maker now and I am going to keep working for her. I am trying to pursue some other narratives in storytelling. I put grad school on the back burner for a couple years because I was like ‘You are pursuing your dreams no matter how afraid you are.’ Not that grad school isn’t a dream, it’s just not the scariest one. I made a deal with myself that I would pursue my scariest dream that felt like the hardest to reach, which is primarily documentary work, writing, and storytelling.”
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster College’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.