UB announces student speaker for University Commencement on May 15
Singaporean exchange student Dorminic Ong selected to speak before class of 2016
Dorminic Ong said he was not expecting to be selected as a speaker for UB’s College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony, and when he found out he was chosen, he was humbled.
Ong, a senior communication major, is originally from Singapore and has spent his last semester at UB finding different opportunities for himself than what his home country can offer.
“[The United States], as broken as it is, still represents opportunity that I have been excluded from whilst living in Singapore,” Ong said.
He said his speech that he submitted was partly based on a piece he submitted to Temasek Polytechnic School in Singapore, but “tweaked it” to embody his experience while in Buffalo and attending UB.
Ong said his speech comes from a very intrinsic part of his student experience.
“It feels good to finally be acknowledged and accepted for what I am capable of,” he said. “I really feel that I have been vindicated.”
Ong is unlike most undergrads at UB – he’s 27 years-old.
He moved to Pittsburgh, PA at six years old and went to public school until 16, when he moved back to Singapore to finish high school.
“I didn’t grow up too far removed from [America],” Ong said.
Upon returning to Singapore and finishing his diploma at Temasek Polytechnic, Ong enlisted in the Singapore Armed Forces in the infantry division for two years. He was stationed in Singapore.
In Singapore, enlisting in the Armed Forces is mandatory. According to the CIA’s website, males between the ages of 18 and 21 are obligated for male compulsory military service. Citizens can also volunteer as early as 16 years old.
“There was a sense that a lot of people were [enlisting] just to waste their time,” Ong said. “I took it as an opportunity to see how far I could push myself, and I did. I was the best possible soldier I could be.”
Ong said he felt that being in the military taught him a lot of lessons that have helped him here in Buffalo, like discipline and the willingness to endure.
“As much as I resented a part of my time in the army, I can’t change the fact that is has changed me and I decided I wanted that change to be for the better,” he said.
After his service, Ong decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the Singapore Institute of Management, UB’s sister school in Singapore, before arriving back in the U.S. to attend UB.
Ong only just arrived in America this year but still decided he wanted to take a shot and try to speak at his graduation.
He explained that four other students were selected as finalists to be the University Commencement student speaker.
Each student was asked to recite their speech in front of a selection committee, according to UB spokesperson John Della Contrada.
Ong said that he had to stand on a podium in the Center for the Arts theater and read his speech before the committee.
The University Commencement will also include a speech from President Satish Tripathi.
Other ceremonies will feature speeches from Richard F. Andolina Sr., president-elect of the NYS Dental Association, who will speak in front of the School of Dental Medicine. Mary Garlick Roll, national director and clinical trials liaison for Halozyme Therapeutics Inc. and president of the UB Alumni Association, will speak before the School of Nursing. Robert Odawi Porter, an attorney, legal scholar and former president of the Seneca Nation, will speak before the School of Law.
Ong said he found out the night he gave his speech in front of the committee that he had been selected to be this year’s student speaker.
Ong said that the main thing he wants students to take from his speech is “the importance of doing the work.”
“We all have the capacity to be great men and women but it’s not about the big flashy victories,” Ong said. “It’s about the little things we do every day, being strong in the face of adversity and being consistent about our values.”
Evan Schneider is a news desk editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.