The voices of UB commencement

Students and faculty share their opinions on graduation speakers


Anyssa Evelyn will miss the experiences, community, growth, friends and the sense of family she’s developed here at UB.

But the chance to address the community she’s grown to love in a speech at graduation feels like the ending that is “meant to be.”

“I’m happy and honored, but I also feel ready,” Evelyn said. “Leaving school is the same feeling I got when coming to school: nervous and scared. I don’t want to leave my dad because we are very close and being here alone is like, ‘how am I going to make that family.’ And leaving now is the same thing, like how am I going to leave this beautiful university behind and go on and be an adult?”

Evelyn and Mike Brown were selected to be the student speakers at the undergraduate commencement ceremonies for the College of Arts and Sciences this year.

MADDY FOWLER | The Spectrum

Mike Brown, senior political science and computer science major, will speak at the second arts and science commencement ceremony next week.

Brown, a Buffalo native and political science major, attempts to hold back his nerves and excitement for the May 19 ceremony.

“It’s pretty amazing that I’m getting this opportunity,” Brown said. “I applied for it and waited to hear if I would get it. … When I found out, it was one of my proudest moments here at UB.”

“Everyone comes from such different places and you learn a lot about what people want to do and the differences in what people want from life,” Evelyn said. “Finding different homes and learning from everybody is such a great experience.”

  UB frequently invites faculty, students and community members to be guest speakers at commencement ceremonies. Evelyn, a health and human services major, will be speaking at the first commencement ceremony on May 19. 

 “Everyone comes from such different places and you learn a lot about what people want to do and the differences in what people want from life,” Evelyn said. “Finding different homes and learning from everybody is such a great experience.” 

Though other universities may invite a higher-profile guest, this allows for students to hear from “memorable” professors and student peers, according to CAS Coordinator of Strategic Programs Anne Continetti. Students can apply through departments to be a guest speaker for their respective commencement ceremony.

 “I think giving students a speech gives all of us representation at the ceremony,” Brown said. “It makes it more about the community and Buffalo as a whole when it’s a student or faculty member up on the stage.”

 Brown, who served as the student representative on the UB Council, believes his speech will convey how people making small efforts in the world can come together to create global change. He said he hopes to show his dedication to the UB community, while also sharing in his own personal goals.


Evelyn, the vice president of the Student Association, said her speech would highlight students finding their own “family” at UB and the sense of home on campus. Evelyn believes that not only seeing her own personal growth, but the growth of friends at college was one of the best things about UB.

 “Every part of the College’s commencement ceremonies are focused on the student,” Continetti wrote in an email. “From the social media activity for live display with the hashtag #UBclassof2019 to the student and faculty speakers to the fun activities and atmosphere students enjoy before the ceremony begins.”

 Still, not every student is excited for the student-first approach. Connelly Holmes, a senior communication major, will be graduating this spring but didn’t know there would be student speakers at graduation.

 “I feel mixed about the fact that there isn’t someone more well-known speaking,” Holmes said. “I feel like a celebrity or political head could bring an ambience and fire up the audience and they would have more advice to give to students, whereas a student speaker could build more of a rapport with the students graduating.”

 Holmes wasn’t surprised to not know about the student speakers as she ran into other issues finding out information about graduation. She said one of her friends “has been so lost” concerning information about graduation.

 “I didn’t realize that there was a student speaker, but I wish there was also someone more well known who was speaking,” said Bryanna Globe, a senior political science and health and human services major. “I think getting both perspectives on life would be more rewarding, students don’t really know what to expect after college, but I can still relate to them.”

 Globe believes the school does a good job informing students about graduation. She said she has not missed an important date when applying for commencement.

 Some students, however, are excited to see their peer on stage. Sydney dela Rosa, a senior psychology major, said even though she would like to see the school inform students better on graduation details, she was excited to see her fellow students give their speeches.

 “I think it’s really cool that there is a student speaker, especially someone well known like Mike Brown,” dela Rosa said. “I lived with Mike in the dormitories freshman year, so it’s cool to see someone the students can relate to speaking on behalf of the student body at commencement.”

 Michelangelo Di Virgilio, a senior communication major, said he’s glad a student who plays an important role at UB is speaking. 

 “I grew up with [Brown] and I know he plays a big role in our community in UB, as well as Buffalo as a political leader,” Di Virgilio said. So I think it’s great that he’s speaking. I can’t really think of anyone better locally that could speak at our commencement and I think that choosing a local leader is really relevant to our world right now.”

 Brown will speak at the CAS undergraduate humanities and social sciences ceremony on May 19 at 3 p.m. in Alumni Arena.

Evelyn will speak at the CAS undergraduate Arts, Natural Sciences & Math, and Interdisciplinary Programs graduation at 9:30 a.m. at Alumni Arena. Brown will speak at the CAS undergraduate humanities and social sciences ceremony at 3 p.m.

*Leah Higgins contributed reporting to this article.

**Evelyn was not initially included in this reporting

Thomas Zafonte is the senior features and can be reached at: and on Twitter @Thomas_Spectrum.


 Thomas Zafonte is a senior English major. He is a UB sports fan and enjoys traveling around Buffalo.