Student commencement auditions were held March 3 and 4 at California Baptist University, and while the decision is still being made, there are certain criteria the panel looks for to make a commencement speech memorable.
The panel was composed of faculty selected from both student services and academic services. Among those on the panel this semester were John Montgomery, dean of Spiritual Life; Lynette Risner, administrative assistant to the Provost; Dr. Jeffrey Barnes, dean of Academic Services; and Kris Smith, administrative assistant to the Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services.
“It’s a balance between having a personal story in it, having something that represents the class and is something they can relate to,” Smith said.
Each student had 15 minutes to present the reason he or she wanted to give the speech and then rehearse the speech in front of the panel. In the end, two students will be chosen to give two different commencement speeches: one for the traditional undergraduate ceremony and one for the Online and Professional Studies and graduate ceremony.
“It needs to be at least rehearsed enough so that it makes sense and so that we know that they know how to deliver a speech,” Smith said. “That’s as important as what they’re saying, in a lot of ways.”
While delivery is important, Smith said what makes a student stand out in the audition process is his or her personal story and the connections that he or she can make to the audience with their story.
It is important to the panel that the speech can have a balance between being personal to the student and also relatable enough that the audience will be able to make connections to it, Smith said. This is part of the reason that they have two different speakers for the two graduation ceremonies. Not many OPS students want to hear about life in the dorms, Smith said.
“We really consider it an honor and a blessing to get to hear people’s auditions, because for most, they’re not auditioning because they want to do the commencement speech,” she said. “It’s because they have a story to tell. We’re just the lucky recipients to hear these inspiring stories.”
One story came with the 2014 traditional undergraduate commencement speaker. Brianna Nelson, CBU alumna who received her bachelor’s degree in communication studies and public relations, auditioned for the speech because she said she felt that her story was distinct.
“I went to CBU because it was close to home because my mom passed away when I was 13 and I have a younger sister,” Nelson said. “Being at CBU changed who I am. I grew in my faith and in my walk with Christ. CBU isn’t just a college, but it also helps figure out who you are.”
With a place on the speech and debate team at CBU, her coach encouraged her to au- dition for the commencement speech. Like Smith said, however, she did not try out because she wanted the honor of giving the speech.
“I told (the panel) that I felt like I have a story to tell that I wanted to share with everyone,” Nelson said. “I think what they’re looking for is something that is really different, something with a twist on your traditional commencement speech. Bring a unique quality to it.”
Smith said the commencement speaker should be announced on March 6.