As the academic year comes to an end, preparations for the upcoming graduation have begun. This includes the selection of the 2023 commencement student speaker. The selected student speaker for the 2023 undergraduate class is Nour Yousry ‘23.
“I am deeply humbled by this opportunity to serve as the class of 2023 student commencement speaker,” said Yousry.
Yousry has been heavily involved in the campus community through her time at Muhlenberg. She has served as an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Captain, a Resident Advisor (RA), the co-president of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), the co-founder and co-president of the Hebrew Arabic Buddies Interfaith Berg Initiative (HABIBI), campus tour guide and a campus delegate, to name just a few.
With her appointment as speaker, Yousry was able to speak about what this opportunity means to her, and how honored she is to be selected to speak for the class of 2023. “I am beyond humbled [by] this opportunity. I recognize that the class of 2023 is showered with lots of accomplishments, and lots of light. The class of 2023 is so accomplished and so talented, and an inspiration to me personally. I just feel so honored to be given the opportunity to address the class of 2023. But that being said, I am just as excited to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments as well.”
“I applied for the position [of speaker] because I am so proud of my peers,” added Yousry. “I am so excited to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments and everyone’s next steps. On commencement day, I want to recognize all the work our class year has accomplished, and recognize the highs and lows of our journey. Our class experienced the global pandemic in our freshman year, and a lot of abrupt changes we were not expecting.”
“But at the same time, our class was very dedicated and resilient through these years, and has shown accomplishment and has shown success through all the trials and tribulations.”Nour Yousry ’23
Yousry was able to provide insight on her decision to apply, the selection process this year and how it was slightly different than years prior. “There was a very specific process. We submit our speeches, they are anonymised, the selection committee hosts student interviews and then those student names that go through the second tier, go into a ballot where the class of 2023 is able to vote. That is how it’s always been traditionally, and that is the impression I was under when I applied to be speaker,” said Yousry.
The process for selecting the student speaker requires interested students to submit a draft of their speech to a selection committee. From there, the names and identities of the students are removed from the speeches before they are inspected by the selection committee. Then, the committee spends time reviewing and assessing the submitted speeches, and from here, in previous years, the committee would narrow the submissions down to a small number of finalists. These finalists would then have their names and a brief bio of them sent out to the graduating class, where the graduating class would get the opportunity to vote on the final selected speaker.
This year, while applicants were informed that the process would remain the same, when it came to final selection the process was changed without informing the applicants and the graduating class. The final student speaker was chosen by the selection committee, removing the aspect of the class vote.
When asked about the change in selection policy this year, the Director of Student Organizations, Leadership, and Engagement (S.O.L.E) Ellen Lentine stated, “The College does not have a formal policy in place for determining the Senior Commencement Speaker. The Senior Commencement Speaker Selection Committee is responsible for reviewing applications and recommending the best course of action for selection.”
Lentine continued, “Year after year, the committee received consistent feedback from the senior class that the voting process felt inequitable to students. Students voiced concern that the process diminished the academic and collegial integrity of the occasion to nothing more than a ‘popularity contest.’”
“Considering the feedback, and with no firm policy in place, the committee agreed that given the occasion and honor of delivering a commencement speech, the best course of action was to make a selection grounded in the quality and content of the speech. This seemed like the most equitable approach and was a reasonable charge for this committee,” said Lentine.
Lentine informed The Weekly that the selection process was extensive and the candidate chosen submitted a compelling and strong speech, and through their speech, the committee was able to see the chosen speaker to be a deserving and representative speaker for the graduating class.
“I recognize that the student commencement speaker is not someone that can consolidate all the voices into one. There are so many voices that I want to represent and empower on that day. But I also want to recognize that a single voice won’t do justice to everyone’s identities, accomplishments and backgrounds,” noted Yousry.
When reflecting on her Muhlenberg journey, and the gratitude she feels for being selected speaker, a teary-eyed Yousry said, “I’m overcome with emotion. I came to know and get close to a lot of people I consider amazing friends, and amazing peers. And most definitely leaders of our generation. I foresee so much success for them.”
“Being selected for commencement speaker for this upcoming commencement is just a humbling blessing.”Nour Yousry ’23
“My Muhlenberg College career has brought so much light to my life, personally. In so many different ways, but specifically for the opportunity it has brought me to work alongside such talented individuals, and to also empower myself and others to be leaders in our spaces,” shared Yousry.
She added, “I wish I could do it all over again. If I relived these four years, I would choose Muhlenberg every single time.”
There has also been a Graduate and Continuing Education speaker selected, which The Weekly will be announcing next week.