Students to speak at ceremonies

Five graduating seniors will address their fellow classmates at each of the University’s individual school celebrations this weekend. While all schools but the Elliot School of International Affairs invite at least one undergraduate to speak at its celebration, each school sets its own requirements for eligibility.

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences student Andrew Choi, School of Business and Public Management student Tony Dokoupil, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences students Abigail Markoe and Nathaniel Weiss and School of Public Health and Human Services senior Meredith Osterman are set to speak. This year’s ESIA contest winner was a graduate student, and no undergraduate will speak at the celebration on Friday.

Sunday’s University-wide ceremony on the Ellipse will feature student speaker Rachel Talbot, a SBPM student.

All schools have strict academic requirements for potential speakers, except for the SEAS and SPHHS, which allow anyone to submit an application.

CCAS officials said they chose their undergraduate speakers by having professors nominate students in the top 2 percent of the class.

“We do not just take GPA into account, but it is also a question of research, activities or some characteristic that makes them a distinguished scholar, as opposed to just a scholar,” CCAS Marshal Michael King said.

CCAS will hold two celebrations on Saturday to accommodate all of the graduates and their families. Students will be split up according to their majors.

“The (individual school) celebrations are special moments in Commencement weekend (during which) we recognize all of our graduates,” King said.

SBPM and ESIA officials said they also have high academic standards for their student speakers. Potential speakers in the SBPM must be in the top 2 percent of their class, while ESIA students need a 3.8 minimum GPA.

Each school holds a contest inviting some student speakers to present a brief speech in front of a panel of faculty.

“The speech is meant to be something generic to both graduate and undergraduate students,” said Jim Fry, director of ESIA academic advising and student services. “They usually talk about what’s next – what they’ll do with their education outside of the academy.”

While SEAS and SPHHS also hold similar contests to pick undergraduate speakers for their respective celebrations, officials said neither of these schools has any academic requirements, and their contests are open to all of their graduating seniors.

Andrew Choi, SEAS
Andrew Choi, a pianist and percussion player, said an experience he had volunteering at Miriam’s Kitchen, a local soup kitchen, influenced him greatly.

“(One of the kitchen’s clients) had a talent for writing plays, and eagerly shared his work with me … he eventually asked me to teach him piano, and we developed a lasting friendship,” Choi said.

Choi said he plans to attend GW’s School of Medicine in the fall. The Waynesboro, Pa., native is graduating with a double major in computer science and music.

Choi said he would like to keep his speech a surprise until the SEAS celebration.

Tony Dokoupil, SBPM
As of last week, Tony Dokoupil said he had no plans for his speech yet, which he is set to deliver on Saturday.

“I have not written it yet,” the varsity baseball athlete said. “I may just wing it.”

Dokoupil has played on the baseball team for the past four years. Last year, the team was in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1992, and Dokoupil represented GW at the NCAA press conference before the team’s first-round game

Following Commencement, Dokoupil said he is moving to San Francisco for a three-month internship with the Burson-Marsteller public relations firm, with the possibility of being hired full-time.

“I would like to be hired by Burson on a full time basis, but if it does not work out I would be just as happy to move to Costa Rica and vegetate,” he said.

A marketing major, Dokoupil has lived in Connecticut, Florida and Maryland, but currently resides in Paw Paw, W.Va.

Abigail Markoe, CCAS
Abigail Markoe said she plans to discuss “how GW helped us make the choices that are right for us” and how students have grown during their time at the University when she addresses her fellow CCAS graduates.

An active member of the GW community, Markoe said she was “really proud” to be a member of two relatively new student activities on campus – the GW Vibes a capella group and the women’s varsity squash team.

Markoe double majored in history and philosophy of medicine – a major she designed. She said she plans to take a year off before going to Johns Hopkins University to receive her Ph.D. in the history of medicine.

Markoe also minored in Africana studies and can speak the South African language Xhosa.

Meredith Osterman, SPHHS
Meredith Osterman said she enjoys “extreme” activities including sky diving, bungee jumping and white water rafting. On campus, she was a member of the Delta Gamma sorority and the women’s rugby team, which she said was “the coolest thing she did” at GW.

Osterman, who majored in exercise science with a concentration in pre-health, said she will discuss the importance of discovering and going after passions in life, as she has done throughout her education.

Osterman said she plans to attend medical school in 2004 but will travel, spend time with family and friends, personal train at a gym and possibly teach during her interim year.

Nathaniel Weiss, CCAS
A political science major with a minor in history, Nathaniel Weiss said he plans to return to D.C. next year for graduate school in international affairs. Weiss will first lead an Experiment in International Living group to Botswana this summer.

Weiss said his favorite academic memory from GW was the first day in a series of lectures for his U.S. Diplomatic History class, when his professor impersonated John F. Kennedy.

“(The professor) received a standing ovation,” said Weiss, an Ithaca, N.Y., native. “This dovetailed into further impressions of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.”

Weiss said his speech is about the importance of education and volunteering.

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