Student Speakers

DEADLINE TO APPLY: FEBRUARY 23, 2023 BY MIDNIGHT

The university seeks two outstanding students (one undergraduate student and one graduate student) to speak at commencement. This is an opportunity to deliver an address that inspires, encourages and reflects the visions and hopes of your graduating class. Your speech should be 450-500 words (review all writing guidelines provided below).

Privileges

  • Network with distinguished guests & university administration prior to the ceremony
  • Sit on stage during the ceremony
  • Have a short bio featured in the commencement program
  • Receive reserved seating for family members & guests

Criteria

As of the end of the fall semester, students must meet commencement eligibility and have a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.5. Good academic, financial & disciplinary standing at JWU are requirements as well. Professional staff enrolled as students are not eligible.

Application Process

Prior to the deadline, email all of the following items to commencementspeaker@jwu.edu:

  • Name and JWU ID#
  • Telephone # (specify day/evening)
  • Major, College, Grade Point Average
  • One draft copy of your commencement address which must be typed & double-spaced

The selection committee will review submissions anonymously & the committee chairperson will invite top candidates to deliver their speeches for final consideration. Each address will be evaluated based on grammar, spelling, theme/idea, coherency, creativity, organization, potential, audience & voice. After final selections are made, committee members will work with each student speaker to finalize their commencement addresses. If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Cresta, Special Events Manager, at 401-598-4809 or scresta@jwu.edu. 

Writing Guidelines

The address should be no more than 450-500 words and will be delivered to a very large audience. Highlight an experience that your fellow graduates can relate to. Ask yourself, what about your JWU experience has motivated you to get where you are today?

Tips for writing an effective speech: 
  • Brevity - you have only three minutes for your speech; dawdling will kill your eloquence
  • Occasion - it is a privilege to be chosen to speak on this occasion; take the time & effort to prepare this speech as you would when writing a crucial class paper
  • Role - you may not be speaking "for the whole class," but you are a representative of JWU, speaking before the assembled faculty, family and friends, and fellow students, as well as before the Chancellor and our distinguished guests; a commencement speech should make the community proud
  • Content - we will be seeking considered reflections that result from your years of education at JWU; your audience will be interested in hearing intelligence, passion & wit
Content to avoid:
  • Personal statements of gratitude to individuals or loyal family and friends unless they are also generalized as the shared experience of all those graduating
  • Memories about parties, etc.
  • Statements about how hard everyone has worked (these are obvious and worn)
  • Slang or inappropriate language