Student Commencement Speaker Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

 Who is eligible to apply to be the student commencement speaker?

Potential student candidates should represent SUNY Empire State College by possessing both unique experiences as well as having shown thoughtful engagement to the college or their communities throughout his/her academic program.

Eligibility Requirements include:

  • Eligible for the 2020 commencement ceremony
  • Is in good academic standing
  • Completed nomination/application
  • Articulate and capable public speaker
  • Demonstrated leadership skills/abilities

When is the application due?

The deadline for nominations/applications to be submitted is Tuesday, February 25, 2020.

Will someone help me with my speech if I am selected?

Every student speaker is assigned a coach, someone who is associated with the college and has experience drafting speeches and public speaking.

They walk you through the steps, review your ideas, and help turn those into drafts. Once you have a draft they then work with you on turning that into a speech, working on articulation, breathing, spacing, etc…

Lastly, someone is there with you on the day of commencement to help you manage nerves, conduct a sound check, help you run through the day.

How many students will be selected to speak at commencement?

Two students will be selected to speak at each of the seven (Albany, Long Island, Manhattan and, Rochester ceremonies; 8 students in total.

Important to note, the student speaker selection process for the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Commencement Ceremony is handled differently. All inquiries regarding the nomination process for this location should be directed to

How long will the student speaker’s speech be?

The student speaker's speech should be three to five minutes long or approximately 450–600 words.

Will the student speakers be the only speakers?

No. The ceremony will feature a variety of speakers including but not limited to alumni speakers, specials guests and college administration.

If I am selected to be a student speaker, will I be able to sit with my fellow graduates?

Yes. The student speakers will be seated with their fellow graduates and called up onto stage when it is time to deliver their speeches.