On Tuesday, faculty members and students alike gathered to hear a group of Wake Forest seniors share their thoughts and words with the community at the annual Senior Colloquium.
The Colloquium is a long-standing Wake Forest tradition, dating back to 1868, when oration was featured in all special occasions. Each year, the college faculty nominate their best and brightest students to share speeches reflecting on their diverse college experiences. The following seniors spoke: David Ajamy, Savannah Baber, Erik Banuchi, Briana Carney, Jennifer Fabian, Anna Grace Guercio, Sophie Hollis, Alec Jessar, Riley Mistrot and Elizabeth Waid.
The opportunity to give an oration is part of a very competitive program. Out of thirty-five students this year, ten were selected to present at Pugh Auditorium in Benson. While giving their speeches, students were judged by faculty members who will proceed to choose three out of the 10 to speak at the Founders Day Convocation. These three finalists are then narrowed down to one student who will speak at the Honors and Awards ceremony on the Sunday prior to commencement.
“Being nominated and chosen to speak means the world to me,” said senior speaker David Ajamy.
The ambitious process, however, was negligible in comparison to the wisdom and inspiration within the speeches themselves. Students contributed stories of overcoming adversity, reaching goals, discovering new perspectives and most importantly, creating a home for themselves at Wake Forest.
In her speech titled “Love and Spreadsheets,” senior Bri Carney spoke proudly about her influence on the Wake Forest athletic department.
As a talented soccer player and passionate activist for inclusivity on campus, Carney was determined to organize a pride game for her team at Wake Forest until the idea was turned away by the Atheltic department. Her efforts did not stop there. Carney made a petition through a Google spreadsheet and sent it out to as many Wake Forest students as she could. Within two days, the spreadsheet received over 1,000 signatures.
“I just remember feeling so moved that the campus was supportive of something that was important to me.” Carney said. “This was the Wake Forest I knew.”
Senior Jenn Fabian took a slightly different path in her speech and discussed the power of asking good questions. In her speech titled “Daily Deac,” Fabian spoke about her grandmother’s love for learning and asking thoughtful inquiries, which had influenced Fabian’s own enthusiasm in school and the Wake Forest community as a whole.
“When deciding what I was going to write about, I knew that it was important to speak about my grandmother’s influence and connect it to the home that I found here at Wake Forest,” Fabian said. “I am so grateful for every experience that I’ve had and the people here, the ‘Daily Deacs’ that I am known and loved by.”
In addition to their work, students were chosen to speak by virtue of the meaningful connections they developed with others on campus. As a result, this year’s seniors were introduced by the professors that had nominated them to speak. Over the years, the faculty members became advisors, guides and mentors for the speakers.
“When I hear students speak, it reminds me of why I love being a professor and the influence that I can have in shaping their experiences,” said Anthony Marsh, a professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science.
While reading their introductions, each faculty member mentioned the accomplishments of their students with great enthusiasm and pride, reflecting on the ways that the speaker had positively impacted the Wake Forest community within and outside of the classroom. Likewise, many students mentioned their appreciation for the mentorship they received as well.
“It is a wonderful feeling being introduced by your idol,” senior speaker Riley Mistrot said, referring to her professor and advisor, Michael Lamb.
Ultimately, the event allowed seniors to share intimate, formative stories of their college experience.