University selects two students to speak at Commencement

For the fourth time in its history, the University has selected two students to speak at Commencement in May, the school’s marshal said last week.

Graduate student Cosmin Florescu and undergraduate student Naomi Rapp were chosen after a team of judges – including various University officials and one student – heard their speeches at an audition two weeks ago.

“In the years that we pick two students, it is because we can not pick between the two students,” Kasle said. “This happens because the judges always feel that the two students are so good and different from each other, that to chose one over the other would do a disservice.”

While she said all of the students who auditioned were extremely talented, Florescu and Rapp “jumped off the page” because of their unique speaking styles and life experiences.

Florescu and Rapp were chosen out of a pool of 11 student competitors from every larger school within the University, Kasle said. She added that one of the candidates was a future radiologist, two were veterans and another has been “literally all over the world.”

Florescu, a master’s candidate in both global health and international development, said he wants to be a doctor so he can “help people help themselves.”

“In my undergrad I had this dream of joining Doctors Without Borders to save the world,” Florescu said. “Now, after spending time in Ethiopia and talking with the doctors there, I want to teach local doctors so I can reach more people.”

Born in Romania during the height of communism, Florescu and his family immigrated to southern California when he was 10 years old.

“My parents wanted more for my brother and me,” he said. “I’ve lived in a world where the government controlled everything, but I’m American now.”

He obtained an undergraduate degree at the University of Southern California and chose GW because he liked its capstone and fellowship programs. He has used these programs, in the Elliott School of International Affairs and School of Public Health and Health Services, to study in Mozambique and to assist in running a development program in Ethiopia.

While he refused to give away any details of his speech, Florescu said he plans on blending his past with the current sense of hopelessness about the economy and future to show students that they can overcome anything, saying “we have gone through worse before.”

Rapp said she has yet to submit a single job application, though she is graduating in less than a month.

“I want to travel, to take some time for myself,” said the senior, who is majoring in biomedical engineering. “I’m already planning a trip to Iceland.”

Kasle said Rapp stood out from the crowd because of the earnest humility that came across during her speech.

As a student in engineering, a field dominated by men, Rapp has worked to reach out to other females in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“My friends started a female engineering sorority, Alpha Omega Epsilon, that is a place where females can feel safe in such a male-dominated field,” the Chicago native said. “We have about a fourth of all the engineering girls now.”

Rapp said she is working to break the gender stereotype.

“Still boys will often go to other guys for homework help because the stereotypes still exist that boys are smarter than girls,” she said.

Rapp said she is surprised she was chosen to be one of the University’s Commencement speakers, but is working hard on presenting a message for the entire University. She said she is working hard to avoid the “geeky jokes that only the engineers will get.”

“Students are worried about finding jobs,” Rapp said. “I want my speech to be about what is next.”

The Commencement ceremony will take place May 17 on the National Mall and will include remarks by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, University President Steven Knapp and other University officials.

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