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Mid-year completion speakers selected

Tennis ’14.5, Harris ’14.5 posted preliminary ideas on Alternative Commencement blog

After advancing through a competitive selection process, Todd Harris ’14.5 and Maggie Tennis ’14.5 have been chosen as this year’s mid-year completion speakers, said Kathleen McSharry, associate dean of the College for writing and curriculum.

To be considered for the honor of mid-year completion speaker, students must be nominated by a peer or nominate themselves. Each year, 15 to 35 students submit short pieces that serve as snippets of their potential speeches, McSharry said.

A committee of faculty members reviews the snippets and narrows down the pool of candidates. These candidates are then invited to deliver their whole speeches in person before the committee.

Harris, a former president of the Undergraduate Council of Students, centered his speech on the “ever-changing paths of the Brown experience.” His speech was inspired by a post he wrote last spring on Alternative Commencement, a blog created by Ana Olsen ’14 and Kayla Rosen ’14.

The blog “was (a) space for any member of the Brown community to share their parting thoughts with Brown and their parting thoughts with the senior class,” Harris said. “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing when I decided to write a blog post for them.”

“So when I was applying to be a mid-year completion speaker, I decided that point-fiver graduation is like an Alternative Commencement of its own,” he added. “I felt like what I wrote applied more than ever to point-fivers.”

Tennis, a Herald opinions editor and former captain of the pirate a cappella group ARRR!!!, also decided to submit an excerpt from a post she wrote for Alternative Commencement. As she progressed through the rounds of selection, she continued to revise this speech, which focuses on an experience involving an unexpected medical emergency that altered her intended plans for her time at Brown.

“I think speaking will conclude my college career in a meaningful and emphatic way, which I am very excited about,” Tennis said. “Mid-year completion is very much about the students, while Commencement can more so be about the pomp and circumstance. So I am so excited to address this small contingent of students who have had a different road through college.”

After finding out they were selected, both speakers said they felt excitement and appreciation.

“I was really grateful toward the friends who started Alternative Commencement last year,” Harris said. “It was great to have that process of sharing my thoughts about Brown on this blog and going through the process of those thoughts evolving.”

Tennis said she appreciates the opportunity to speak alongside Harris, a longtime acquaintance. “Todd was one of the first people I met at Brown, so it’s just great to start and end my Brown experience with him,” she said.

“I’m just so excited to share my speech with people that understand,” she added. “Intimacy is what makes this a really cool event.”



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