University Communications is highlighting a few members of the Class of 2018. See more commencement news at rit.edu/news/commencement.
When Elizabeth Sheffield crosses the stage at graduation, she’ll do so wearing a special stole that exemplifies her heritage, hard work and the tremendous support she has received from her Native American tribe during her four years at RIT.
Sheffield, a fourth-year animation student in the School of Film and Animation at the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, is a proud citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and will be wearing a special stole that reads Chikasha Holitoplichi, meaning Honors Program.
“I have received this stole because I am a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and because I’m completing a higher education while managing to keep my grades up,” said Sheffield, who considers both Ocean City, N.J., and Maryland home. “I am so excited and absolutely honored to represent the Chickasaw Nation during my graduation ceremony.”
Sheffield said the “overwhelming support” from the tribe has included financial assistance for scholarships, clothing, textbooks and, most recently, partial reimbursement for graduation expenses. That support, she said, has nicely complemented the welcoming environment she has experienced since walking onto the RIT campus.
“I came to RIT because it has one of the top animation programs in the country, and it’s an impressive school in general,” she said. “SOFA is one of the most supportive communities I have ever been a part of … the faculty and students are close and look out for one another.”
“I remember how welcomed I felt when I first shadowed a couple of students here back when I was still a senior in high school,” Sheffield added. “Everyone seemed to know everyone and they treated me like we had already been good friends for years. That close-knit family feeling played a large part in cementing my decision to come to RIT.”
Sheffield also cited the university’s Native American Future Stewards program for “helping me out a lot when I was a freshman.”
“I made a couple of friends that, as a freshman, I felt made the adjustment period much smoother for me,” she recalled.
Sheffield has been accepted into the Chickasaw Nation Internship Program as a multimedia intern after graduation. The 10-week program will take her to the Chickasaw Nation’s home base in Ada, Okla., where she is looking forward to proving herself during her internship. She hopes to be hired permanently at their location in Washington, D.C., where she would be closer to her family and friends.
Sheffield is looking at the opportunity for both important experience early in her career and to help payback the Chickasaw Nation for the tribe’s belief and support in her.
“I will never be able to put into words how thankful and grateful I am to the Chickasaw Nation for their encouragement and support to further my education here at RIT,” she said. “I consider myself extremely lucky and am immensely humbled by their generosity.”