An inspiring group of commencement speakers

After enduring a long year of virtual events, commencement 2021 will be in person.

Kathryn Robinson, Variety Reporter

After the class of 2020 was unable to have a ceremony because of the pandemic, many students feared the same fate for the class of 2021. Luckily with the speed of the vaccine rollout and the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines, this year’s ceremony will be held in person in a smaller format, and an inspiring group of students will honor the class of 2021.

In a normal year, commencement is held either on Old Main Lawn or in Hutton Arena. This year the ceremony will be held off campus at the RiverCentre Grand Ballroom, located at 175 West Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul. There will be multiple ceremonies to ensure social distancing, with three commencement speakers  instead of one. There will also be a ceremony to honor the class of 2020.

This year’s commencement speakers are Dieu Do, Rose-Marie Athiley and Sideena Grace. 

Athiley has prepared these past four years for the chance to become commencement speaker.

“I was actually working at the Oracle during my first year and I interviewed the person who was  commencement speaker for that year and I thought that I could definitely do this,” Athiley said. “So I’ve been planning on it for four years.” 

One of the biggest ways she has prepared has been immense involvement on campus.

“From being an RA, working at the Oracle, Hedgemen Center, track and field photographer and a lot of random stuff,” Athiley said. “I’ve touched a lot of different spaces at Hamline, so I felt like I was a good representative that can relate to everybody in some way.” 

It was important for Athiley to know that the commencement speaker is someone that many students have interacted with in some capacity.

Sideena Grace is an applied physics major with an emphasis in engineering. She is the first African-American woman at Hamline University to graduate with an applied physics degree. Her next steps involve graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Aeronautics and Astronautics department to work on spacesuits. Her message for the class of 2021 is clear — be the first but not the last.

“I want to be the senior speaker at the commencement because I want to be the voice of all perspectives for the class of 2021: minorities, women, scientists, teachers, leaders, creatives, innovators and the voices of justice,” Grace said. 

All of the commencement speakers have taken their role seriously and are excited for the opportunity.

“My role as a commencement speaker is to encourage the graduating class to continue to go for their dreams and make room for those who come behind them,” Grace said. “I’m really grateful and excited for the future.”

Do’s list of achievements is far reaching and never ending. She has been incredibly involved on and off campus as an RA, new student mentor and much more, currently serving as a Newman Civic Fellow.

“I’m ecstatic to be able to celebrate our resilience, patience and achievements with my fellow students after four hard years,” Do said. “I wanted to be our commencement speaker and deliver this speech as my final thank you to everyone who has changed my life and I hope sharing my story with others will give people the power and courage to be vulnerable and own their stories and lives, even its flaws.”