University announces commencement speakers

By on April 12, 2017

It’s a moment four years in the making, a moment that induces both excitement and fear in the minds of students. Graduation: The gateway to the true adult world.

Though all ceremonies differ between universities, there is one thing they all have in common: all ceremonies feature distinguished speakers aiming to share their experiences with those who are about to enter the workforce.

According to a university press release, speakers for this year’s commencement ceremonies include, CBS medical correspondent Jonathan LaPook; Sikorsky Vice President for Communication Tyrone “Woody” Woodyard; Sleepy Anesthesia Associates President Juan Quintana, Yale University economics professor John Geanakoplos; founder and CEO of The North Face Hap Klopp; executive director of Camp No Limits Mary Leighton; former NPR host Michele Norris, chief nursing officer at Community Health Center Mary Blankson, Vice Chairman of O&G Industries Greg Oneglia; and Justice Richard Robinson of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

So what exactly does the university look for in a commencement speaker? Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs Karla Natale explained that the university looks for specific qualities in the speakers they select.

“(The university looks for) someone that represents the majors and/or fields of work and study that are part of the specific school(s) they will be speaking to,” Natale said. “Someone that has life experience to draw from when making their remarks to the (graduating) class.”

Senior political science major Corey Scott described what he, as a graduating student, looks for in a commencement speaker.

“I’m essentially looking for something that combines a bit of nostalgia with a fresh, straightforward reality check about what happens next,” Scott said.

Natale also explained that the speakers for commencement ceremonies are based upon suggestions taken from deans and other faculty, as well as students.

Scott who is part of the College of Arts and Sciences student council, explained his part in the process of choosing the commencement speaker for the ceremony for CAS students, as well as how these students assist deans within the school with selecting a speaker.

“I am the Student Commencement Speaker Selection Committee Chair for the College of Arts and Sciences. The committee is part of a larger body – the CAS Student Council, that serves as an advisory body for the deans of CAS,” Scott said.

Scott believes that it is important that students have a role in selecting who will be speaking to them as they prepare for the next stage in their lives.

“Students should have a larger role in selecting the commencement speakers,” Scott said. “I think it’s fantastic that Dean Smart allowed the council to form a Student Speaker Selection Committee, and I think this is something that should be replicated across all schools within the university.”

Natale explained the benefits the university hopes the commencement speakers can have on the students.

“They often provide celebratory, motivational and informational remarks that help to mark this milestone in our students lives,” Natale said.

As for what she hopes students will get out of their respective commencement addresses, Natale hopes that the students will receive memorable and inspiring advice from the speakers.

“Hopefully (the students will receive) a positive and celebratory message as they begin the next chapter of their lives,” Natale said.

While many students may not even be aware of who their respective commencement speakers are, Scott believes that it does matter who makes that address to the students.

“It does matter who your commencement speaker is,” Scott said. “These speakers leave an indelible mark on each of our lives, so it is important that we have a speaker that is relatable, inspiring and realistic.”

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