Student Commencement Speaker Contest


Kenya Z. Hyman  Daniel S. Smith

2019 Commencement Speakers - Kenya Z. Hyman and Daniel S. Smith

One graduating Wagner College student will be chosen to deliver a brief inspirational speech at the College’s ceremony on Friday, May 15, 2020.

Application and Rehearsal Information

Students interested in competing for this honor must follow the following instructions:

  1. Submit the following materials to Ann Giarratano ( by 4:30pm, February 28, 2020:
    • An updated resume.
    • Your intended commencement speech in a word document. The speech must be no longer than 3 spoken minutes in length.  Each page of the document should be numbered, but no name or other identifying information should be recognizable in this document.
    • If you email your application and documents you need to put in the subject line LastnameFirstnameSpeech and send to Ann Giarratano (
    • Please note that student applicants for this process must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0.
    • A confirmation reply will be sent to you once your complete application has been received.
  2. An Executive Committee will review all applications and select students for auditions. Those students who are selected will present their speech to a selection committee composed of staff, faculty and students.  You must be available for auditions during the day on Thursday, March 26 and/or Friday, March 27, 2020 (exact time to be determined).The committee will then choose one - two speeches for presentation at Commencement.
  3. If you are selected, you must commit to meeting with the speaker coach for a minimum of 2 hours between April 13 and April 17, 2020.
  4. Be available for final rehearsal on Monday, May 4 or, Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 (exact time to be determined).
  5. Be present for commencement on Friday, May 15, 2020.

Commencement Speech Guidelines

The following are suggested guidelines for the Wagner College Student Commencement speech.  While not all follow these guidelines, most do.

Structure and Flow

  1. Speeches open with greetings to the President, Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, alumni, and the fellow members of the Class of 2020, with special thanks to parents, friends and loved ones who made it all possible.
  2. The speaker should then respond to the question: How has your experience at Wagner allowed you to be engaged civically, academically, or interculturally for the greater social good?
  3. Speeches then transition towards their closing, often with an energetic call to action. Remember that this is a commencement ceremony, and that it marks people moving forward and beginning new lives.

Characteristics and Length

Effective speeches are rich in content, have a strong theme, tell compelling stories, and ultimately inspire the listeners.  They should be inclusive and demonstrate passion, conviction, and sincerity.  The speech’s perspective should not reflect that of a single person or campus department, but all those who are graduating.  Please remember not to use offensive or inappropriate language in the speech. The speech needs to be delivered in less than 3 minutes.