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Kathryn Lofton, a critic of popular culture and historian of religion, gave the keynote address at UNC-Chapel Hill’s 2018 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony on May 12, 2018. The title of her remarks was “Things I Thought About as I Made the Thirty Minute Walk to Estes Park Apartments After a Night Seminar Between 2000 and 2002.”

Lofton received both her master’s and doctoral degrees in religious studies from UNC-Chapel Hill. She is a professor of religious studies, American studies, history and divinity at Yale University.

“We go to universities not to decide what is definitively good and what is definitively bad but to learn how to think through our discomforts and our pain with reason, and how to reason toward fairness, given the infinite complexities of human life,” she said in her remarks.


“The hooding ceremony is a time to celebrate our candidates’ achievements, and to thank you for your research, for the students you’ve inspired and for your contributions to our University. Your future is certainly brighter because of your degrees.”

—Chancellor Carol L. Folt

“I ask that you take your commitment to excellence and go out into your community – whether it’s here in North Carolina, across the United States or across the oceans – and make your community a better place for its citizens. Lend your passion and your knowledge to your community, and watch it grow and prosper.”

—Graduate School Dean Steve Matson



Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring


Graduate School Dean Steve Matson presents the 2018 Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring to Blossom Damania

Blossom Damania, Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has received the 2018 Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring. The Graduate School presents the annual award to a faculty member who: encourages students to establish their own record of scholarly activity or performance; provides a supportive environment that facilitates the development of best performance and talents from individual graduate students; and achieves a successful record of graduate degree completion among the students they have advised.

Graduate School Dean Steve Matson presented the award to Damania at the University’s May 12 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony.

“Dr. Damania is a world-renowned researcher,” Matson said, in presenting the award. “The nomination letter details the high expectations she has for the students within her laboratory and the ways she supports their research.”

During her 18 years at Carolina, Damania has trained 14 graduate students and 15 post-doctoral scholars, who pursue careers, in the words of the nomination letter, “in highly competitive, diverse settings following departure, including academia, industry and government positions.”

The nomination letter for Damania also said, “Our future as scientists depends on being independent and Blossom has found that giving us the room to grow with proper support effectively establishes such independence.”

Damania is vice dean for research within UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine and also a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“I am touched that my students, unbeknownst to me, nominated me for this award,” Damania said. “I feel very privileged and humbled. I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to mentor and train students during their graduate career and to watch my trainees grow into accomplished scientists and researchers of high merit. They represent the future of science and they make me so proud to be their mentor.”


Video of full Hooding Ceremony


Emilie Poplett, University Communications, contributed to this content

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