Lighting of the Lawn committee chooses ‘Be the Light’ as this year’s theme

U.Va. to celebrate seventeenth Lighting of Lawn Nov. 30


Lighting of the Lawn will take place Nov. 30 and will be centered around the theme “Be the Light.” 

Courtesy University of Virginia

As the fall semester wraps up, the University turns its focus towards one of its most celebrated traditions — namely, Lighting of the Lawn. The event will take place Nov. 30 and will be centered around the theme “Be the Light.” 

Fourth-year Commerce student Holly Stevens and fourth-year College student Denny Smythe serve as executive chairs for this year’s LOTL celebration. Though Stevens and Smythe have been working towards this particular event since March 2017, both have been a part of the planning process for yearly LOTLs since early on in their time at the University, beginning in the programs and logistics committees, respectively.

“As executive chairs, Denny and I are involved in every single step of the planning process, from A Capella groups, to security measures, to lights, to marketing stickers,” Stevens said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “We help make sure every element of Lighting of the Lawn makes for a very special event for the U.Va. and Charlottesville communities.”

Second-year College student Raghav Savara said that, as an international student who has traveled from Nigeria to study at the University, celebrating LOTL was an integral component of his ability to recognize the University as a second home.

“Coming all the way from Nigeria to U.Va., I definitely faced some struggles getting accustomed to a new country and a new way of life,” Savara said. “I think LOTL did make [me] feel part of the larger University community and not as an outsider as I thought myself to be prior to that.”

Savara also spoke to LOTL’s unique ability to celebrate the University’s diversity, which has become even more relevant with the events that have affected Charlottesville recently, including the white supremacist marches on Aug. 11 and Aug. 12

“The event celebrates the University’s progress in uniting individuals from different cultures and backgrounds and showcases the very fact that one of the greatest strengths of a university is indeed in its diversity regardless of race, religion [and] nationality,” Savara said. “It represents a community of everyone who is a part of U.Va., as well as those who have been a part of the University community, or anyone [who] has been affected or influenced by the University.”

The planning of LOTL is handled by Class Councils and Fourth-Year Trustees, which allows students to be a part of the planning process for LOTL for multiple years.

Fourth-year Batten student Diane D’Costa has been a part of Class Council since her first year, first working with special effects then transitioning to the marketing committee in her second year. This year, D’Costa serves as the head of the marketing committee of LOTL.

D’Costa emphasized the amount of work it takes to plan LOTL, both financially and through working with departments throughout the University. Planning related to committee roles, required funding, grant applications and more began during the summer.  

The marketing committee is formed around late September and is tasked with multiple responsibilities, including determining the theme of the event. This year, D’Costa and her team have settled on the theme “Be the Light.”

“The marketing committee decided on the theme ‘Be the Light,’” and we think it’s indicative of our mission of coming together and allowing each person to be that beacon of light,” D’Costa said. “We hope people embrace this theme, and [that it will] remind people what the purpose of LOTL [is] and what it has the power to do.”

This year’s theme resonated deeply with second-year College student Bita Golshani, finding that it accentuates LOTL’s symbolism in an important and incredibly relevant way.

“LOTL has always been about coming together and having a good time but now more than ever that kind of solidarity is so appropriate for what Charlottesville has experienced/is experiencing,” Golshani said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “The events at Charlottesville proved, if anything, that just the act of a single person can impact so many others. It's our individual responsibility to be that light and to make that impact, and that’s why the theme really resonates for me!”

LOTL, which initially began in response to the events of 9/11, has been recognized as a time for the Charlottesville and the University communities to come together despite hard times and to serve as a reminder of how powerful a close-knit community can be.

“LOTL was first started after the events of 9/11, and everything that happened that struck the nation,” D’Costa said. “U.Va. was feeling that burden and sadness, so the Fourth-Year Trustees were thinking, ‘What can we do to bring the community together?’, and they thought of lighting up the lawn.”

LOTL has expanded significantly since 2001 by adding components like the light show. However, the current board still incorporates the traditions of LOTL that were established at its inception. Mary Elizabeth Luzar, a former trustee in 2001, now serves as a trustees advisor. Her presence in this position serves as a reminder that LOTL has always been an event that brings the University and Charlottesville communities together during tough times.

“My first semester was during the Hannah Graham and Rolling Stone article events, and LOTL was so meaningful to me and I think the rest of the Class of 2018,” D’Costa said. “I feel like this fall is the most similar to that first fall semester I experienced, in terms of the need to come together as a community and what it feels like when we come together in this positive, happy celebration. It’s such a unique, powerful opportunity.”

Savara said he believes this year’s LOTL will shed some positivity on the University.

“There has been and perhaps continues to be a cloud of negativity and pessimism associated with the University’s name by stakeholders elsewhere,” Savara said. “I think ‘Be the Light’ would serve as a light shining through the darkness that has been present over the past few months.”

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