With Spring Convocation right around the corner, the University of Chicago prepares to welcome thousands of people to take part in its longstanding traditions. Meanwhile, non-graduating students balance the rigor of finals week while catching some time in the sun, and the soon-to-be graduates of the Class of 2011 partake in senior week, a time of well-deserved laughter, nostalgia, and relaxation.
However, three of the graduating seniors have one more responsibility to complete.
Every year, the College selects three seniors to speak during the Spring Convocation ceremony. Out of the many students initially nominated by their peers or University faculty, three are chosen to have a voice on such a significant day.
“I think it is really cool that the senior speaker selections are not based on who are the Valedictorians,” says Cissy Huang, a Law, Letters, and Society major. There is an air of confidence to her, in part due to the balanced life she has gained by being a member of a martial arts RSO, on the women’s rugby team, and a program coordinator in Broadview Hall.
Huang states that Jonathan Lear’s Aims of Education speech in 2009 has been a major influence on her during her time at UChicago. With a wide grin and chuckle, she says, “I talk about that speech with everyone! I even wrote about it for my personal statement for law school.”
She was influenced by a portion of his speech that focused on how closely conversations at UChicago connected to personal development. In her speech to her fellow students, Huang plans to address the value of the relationships students form while at UChicago as well as the College’s uniqueness in helping them become not just better students but also better people. Huang advises students to seek out people and professors who can help change their outlook on life and help shape their existence outside of academia.
Allen Linton, another speaker, carries an air of openness towards everyone and everything around him. He says that he “loves connecting with people.” A Political Science major, his interest in community service, youth, and media led him to create and produce a WHBK radio show about sports both at and away from UChicago. He also invests much of his time with the Community Service Center as well as with the Chicago Public School Network, a RSO he started.
Linton’s speech centers on the theme of practicality and the idea that all students have an obligation to use their knowledge to contribute to the world locally, nationally, or globally. He stresses the importance of people understanding what is happening immediately around them. “I see so many students reading The New York Times and the BBC, which is great,” says Linton. “But then they do not even know what is happening around them locally.”
“I chose to nominate myself because there were things I wanted to say that would resonate with other people,” says the third speaker, Alexander El Nabli, a Philosophy major. “I have turned into a more humble person during my time in college because of the healthy experience of being able to fail in ways I haven’t before.” His own personal experience at UChicago aided him in forming his speech on the challenge of students’ expectations—what these expectations were and how some came true and some did not.
The senior speakers embody a hunger shared by the UChicago community at large—a craving for engaging with and challenging the world around them.