Tennessee State Rep. Justin J. Pearson, Beloit College Trustee Oceana R. Gilliam to speak at Beloit College commencement ceremonies

    Beloit College Trustee Oceana R. Gilliam and Tennessee State Rep. Justin J. Pearson (Photo: Beloit College Twitter)  

    Oceana Gilliam, a Beloit College Trustee, and Justin Pearson, a representative in the Tennessee State Assembly, will be the speakers during the Beloit College class of 2024’s commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 12.

    Beloit College is a private liberal arts college, a little less than an hour south of Madison, recognized for its longstanding commitment to curricular innovation, as well as hands-on, active-learning, and international education programs. 

    Pearson was born and raised in Memphis and was valedictorian of his high school class before graduating from Bowdoin College in Maine in 2017 with degrees in government and legal studies and education studies. A community organizer, Pearson was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in January 2023. Pearson’s advocacy and leadership inspired The Sierra Club to recognize him as the 2023 National Changemaker of the Year and The Root magazine to declare him as one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans in 2022.

    Gilliam, a Los Angeles native, leads Pearson’s campaign and District 86’s community outreach initiatives, and helps shape legislation that focuses on reducing poverty, eradicating gun violence, and enhancing community safety. At Beloit College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and Russian, Gilliam was a Ronald E. McNair Undergraduate Research Scholar and explored the unique concept of race in 18th and 19th century Russia and designed and implemented an independent research project entitled “Black Russians? Gannibal, Pushkin, and the Other in Russian Perceptions of Race,” that was published in The Birch Undergraduate Research Journal at Columbia University.

    Sunday’s commencement ceremony begins at 11 a.m. For any questions or concerns about the event, e-mail [email protected]