Student to take center stage

Senior Rachel Talbot of Crampton, Mass., will be the student speaker at Sunday’s Commencement ceremony on the Ellipse. Talbot, who described herself as “not a very exciting person,” will graduate with a concentration in business economics and public policy from the School of Business and Public Management.

Another business student – Tony Dokoupil – is speaking at the SBPM celebration on Saturday. University Marshal Jill Kasle said students who speak at the individual school graduations typically do not participate in the annual contest GW holds to find a student Commencement speaker.

Kasle said each school is allowed to send one representative to the competition, noting that each school uses its own method to determine who will participate in the competition. While the SBPM designated Talbot as its representative, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences held a contest to find its nominee.

Talbot said she did not apply to be the SBPM speaker but declined to give a reason. She said she was nominated by business school officials to represent the SBPM in a competition to be the University-wide graduation speaker.

“I was chosen because I was a distinguished scholar. I’ve been on the Dean’s List every semester that I’ve been here,” Talbot said.

Talbot said she plans to discuss “the importance of knowledge” at the graduation ceremony.

“I want to make people understand that they don’t have to cure cancer or make millions of dollars to make a difference in the world,” Talbot said. “Being a good person and living honorably is a great influence in and of itself.”

Kasle said four candidates delivered brief speeches in front of Jessica Carlson, director of University Events; Jim Hess, executive director of University Events; and herself.

Kasle said the potential speakers’ stage presence was an important factor in the judges’ final decision. Because of the physics of sound, Kasle said a speaker’s voice bounces off of the buildings around the Ellipse and causes an echo, for which the speaker must be prepared.

“We need a very confident speaker who is immune to stage fright, if at all possible,” Kasle said. “(Talbot) was fabulous. She was a clear standout.”

But Talbot said this will be her first big speech and she is “very nervous about delivering it in front of 24,000 people.”

Although she has no concrete plans for the future, Talbot said she plans to spend the summer in East Hampton, N.Y., with her grandmother and then move to Boston to receive her Master of Business Administration.

“I’d like to work for a couple of years at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Afterward, I’d like to get my MBA at either Harvard or Boston College,” Talbot said. “I want to be in the city, and the business schools have an excellent reputation.”

She said her goal is to one day become an economic adviser in the White House.

“I feel that making sound economic goals is the way to help millions of people,” Talbot said.

At GW, Talbot is a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority. She also studied abroad in Paris and has worked for a senior vice president of senior investments at the Solomon Smith Barney brokerage firm.

“I’m really honored to receive this honor. My older sister Kara was also a commencement speaker at Bowdoin College,” Talbot said.

Talbot noted she was only able to achieve this accolade through the support of friends and family.

“It came from the people around me and the simple things they do. My parents will never be famous, but they have such an amazing impact on me and the people they touch,” Talbot said.

Talbot said she would like to thank her friend Tamar Gertner for her help, and two other friends, Andrea and Marla.

-Elizabeth Chernow contributed to this report.

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