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Rollins disappoints with subpar commencement speakers

Courtesy of Rollins Flickr

A commencement speaker is supposed to be an inspiring leader that gives graduates motivation for the real world. Their speech is the last lecture we hear before Rollins lets go of our hands and sends us off to follow our passions and establish our careers. With that being said, what on Earth is Rollins doing? 

The commencement speakers for the class of 2019 are the following: Dr. Ben Brotemarkle for the Hamilton Holt School, Dr. Robiaun Rogers Charles (‘94) for the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), and Roseann Harrington for the Crummer Graduate School of Business.

Has anyone ever heard of any of these vaguely, locally relevant professionals? Does anyone know any of their credentials prior to being announced? No? Cool, because neither do any of the students who have paid thousands of dollars in tuition for the past four years. Sweet deal, Rollins. 

Rollins commencement speakers have always been subpar, but this year feels like the worst. Rollins had a better speaker scheduled on Fox Day. 

Nobel Prize winners have come by the school on regular weekdays as part of the Winter Park Institute, and Rollins can’t find someone that makes me giddy for my own graduation? It has never invested in graduation, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, University of Florida students pay half of what we pay, and bestselling author James Patterson is speaking at their graduation. Morgan Freeman has even shown up to their 2014 graduation ceremony to support his granddaughter. 

I think my debt in student loans deserves a speaker who makes me actually want to sit through my graduation.

Now, before I go off, I know that these speakers have important achievements and are as capable of a good speech as a celebrity-status academic. Leading up to my graduation, though, I want to be excited, inspired, and convinced to hear from someone I know about. Right now, I am not feeling that way. 

Hamilton Holt School’s speaker, Brotemarkle, is an Associate Professor of Humanities and Department Chair at Brevard Community College in Titusville. Brotemarkle has a Ph.D. in Humanities and History from the Union Institute and University, a Master of Liberal Studies degree, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities from Rollins College, as well as an Associate degree in Voice Performance from the Florida School of the Arts. He’s also the director of the Florida Historical Society. 

That’s right, Holt students. He’s a Rollins Alumni who is passionate about history. Riveting. 

CLA speaker, Charles, is also a Rollins alumna. She might seem impressive due to her awards for higher education fundraising, but in her current position, she is the vice president for college advancement at Agnes Scott College, a small women’s liberal arts university that has less than 1,000 students. Even Rollins is a larger institution than that.  I’m sorry, but the history dude sounds more appealing. 

Charles may be successful in her own right, but I am sick of the ‘I was once in your shoes’ speech. I’ve heard it from every adult I’ve met, and I don’t need it. I want a notable speaker that will make me pumped to start adulthood. 

What makes listening to an administrator at graduation from a different college any different than listening to one of Rollins’ current administrators at any other event? These speakers should set this momentous occasion apart, yet there I will be, yet again, listening to a higher-education professional talk. I already spent four years doing that. 

If this trend continues, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rollins Provost Susan Singer is chosen as next year’s commencement speaker.  At least, she  was once a director at the National Science Foundation.  Plus, this way Rollins’ intentions would be especially clear.  It isn’t important who speaks at our graduation as long as they’re affordable (or free).

Crummer’s speaker, Harrington, has written a book and is currently a chief of staff for Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. Isn’t Crummer supposed to be one of the best business grad schools in the nation? Who is she? Come on Crummer , your students deserve someone from Forbes. 

After thoroughly roasting the 2019 commencement speakers, I have come to the realization that Rollins does not care about graduation speakers. 

Graduation is arguably the most important part of the college experience, and we are getting run-of-the-mill alumni. Throughout the year, Rollins feels perfectly content on spending obscene amounts of money for really impressive speakers, but it can’t take the time to invest in a relevant speaker for graduation. It kind of sucks that I can’t flex about my fancy school having a bestselling author or a household name, just saying. 

I hope these speakers are really great, and I hope they prove me wrong. It’s just that, as a senior who has paid all the dues to go to this half-beautiful-half-under-construction campus, I think my class deserves a fancy speaker.

Rollins, step up your game, if not for 2019, at least for the class of 2020. If not, maybe consider getting us conciliatory tickets to the UF graduation ceremony, at least.  

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