Student speakers to be chosen for 2015 commencement

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For the University of Indianapolis’ 2015 commencement, one keynote speaker and two student speakers will address the graduating undergraduate and graduate students.

Although one of the speakers has been chosen, the two students will be selected by the classes they will represent.

After nearly a year of deliberation, a committee has chosen Edwidge Danticat to be the University of Indianapolis’ 2015 keynote commencement speaker. Danticat is an author whose works often focus on social issues such as women’s rights and immigration. Danticat was born in Haiti but moved to America as a girl.

English Department Chair and Professor Kyoko Amano uses Danticat’s books “Breath, Eyes, Memory” and “The Farming of Bones” in her Multicultural Literature course. She said that one of the best aspects of Danticat’s work is her use of vivid language to express her points. Danticat uses her real-life experiences as a Haitian immigrant in her writing.

Amano spoke about how Danticat deserves the honor of giving the address.

“She [Danticat] strikes me as a person who is really down-to-earth,” Amano said. “She is connected to Haiti. When they had the earthquake [in 2010], she did fundraising and helped people there. She is civically responsible.”

UIndy graduate Will Schnabel speaks at the 2014 commencement. Schnabel was elected by students to be the speaker last year, which was the first year the voting process was used. Contributed by Ben Zefeng Zhang

UIndy graduate Will Schnabel speaks at the 2014 commencement. Schnabel was elected by students to be the speaker last year, which was the first year the voting process was used. Contributed by Ben Zefeng Zhang

Alongside Danticat, two student speakers who also will give addresses to the graduating class. This recent tradition began last year when Peter Brown and Will Schnabel were chosen to speak for their classes. Vice President for Students and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli said the tradition started to give students a chance to speak.

“Last year was the first year that we started having student speakers at graduation,” Vitangeli said. “We thought it would be cool to have some student speakers. This year again, even though we have a graduation speaker, we still wanted students to have an opportunity to be represented in graduation.”

Last year, the process was done on a shortened timeline because the decision was made near graduation. This year, the committee had a whole new process for the students to pick who represents them. Vitangeli thinks the new process will excite students and help them to be more connected to their peer.

Vitangeli said the selection process will be different this year.

“We are doing a similar process [to pick the student speakers] but a little more elevated,” Vitangeli said. “We asked for nominations from both undergraduates and graduates. Now we are going back and asking those individuals who were nominated to make a video, with a preview of what they would want to say.”

The next step is for the students to vote on the speakers.  Vitangeli said that students should expect these videos to go up shortly after Spring Break.  She hopes that this selection process for student speakers will become a lasting tradition.

“We are looking forward to two more great speakers,” Vitangeli said. “I think the tradition of having student speakers will continue for a long time to come.

After voting is finished, the selected speakers will prepare for the combined undergraduate and graduate ceremony on May 2.

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