Senior wins chance to speak at Commencement after competition

Senior Noreen Kassam stands alongside University President Steven Knapp after Kassam grabbed a spot as the student Commencement speaker. Zachary Krahmer | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Kierran Petersen

A senior majoring in international affairs and political science earned the chance to tell her GW story to fellow graduates next month when she won the annual student Commencement speaker competition today.

Noreen Kassam, who hails from Albuquerque, N.M. will address more than 25,000 people at the May 20 Commencement alongside longtime NBC anchor Brian Williams.

Kassam beat out 11 other finalists from five of GW’s schools, performing her speech in front of a panel of professors, administrators and students.

“I didn’t see it coming. I was shocked and speechless,” Kassam said.

Kassam said it was difficult to summarize her four years at GW in the three-minute speech in which she discussed the potential for students to do good in the world.

“I happen to be the one speaking but it is on behalf of all of those graduating,” she said.

The competition, which began in late March, drew about 40 total applicants who were required to submit a biography, a written copy of their speech and a YouTube video of them performing it.

In past years, each college nominated one representative to compete for student commencement speaker.

“I think it broadens the process a little bit more. It just means that more of our students get to be considered by the judges,” said University President Steven Knapp, who announced Kassam as the winner.

Knapp said student commencement speakers are valued for their ability to speak clearly about what student life is like at GW.

Kassam said that her parents – who will travel to the District for Commencement – will be proud of her feat.

“I think their trip to D.C. just became a little more exciting,” she said.

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