Student Commencement Speaker

Grand Valley holds four official Commencement ceremonies during the academic year; three ceremonies in April and one ceremony in December. A special honor is provided to a graduating student to address the University community during each Commencement ceremony. The selected speaker will add a student’s voice to address their peers, as well as university faculty and staff, honored guests and families during the ceremony. The student’s comments will reflect on their experience at Grand Valley State University and how their graduating class will make a difference with their Laker Effect.


Graduating students interested in delivering the Commencement comments must meet criteria to apply as a student speaker. The student must:

  • Be an eligible member of the graduating class (undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral).
  • Be in good academic and judicial standing.
  • Write their comments and work with a speech coach, as designated by the University, for the weeks prior to the ceremony.
  • Arrive early to the ceremony for a stage rehearsal, and attend and participate fully in the Commencement ceremony on the date and time for which they are selected.

Submission Process:

Eligible and interested students are required to submit an online application and a link to a short video (maximum length 3 minutes) with an introduction of themselves (name and major, at a minimum) and their intended Commencement comments. The video comments should follow the Speech Guidelines noted below. Students will be vetted to ensure that they meet the eligibility requirements.

The deadline to submit an application and a video link for the Winter 2024 ceremonies is Friday, March 1, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. Late submissions are not accepted.

Speech Guidelines

  • Tell the story of how your educational experience at GVSU helped to shape your life, your future profession, or your society/community.  Consider reflecting on your overall academic experience, co-curricular involvement, or service opportunities.
  • Keep themes broad as fellow students will graduate from more than one program and college.  Share common experiences and insights.
  • Inspire and encourage fellow graduates to carry the GVSU Laker Effect out into the world.
  • Comments are limited to no more than 3 minutes – this translates to approximately 400 words or two double-spaced, typed pages.

Selection Process:

The speakers will be selected by a committee through a two-step process.

  1. The Selection Committee will review applications and videos following the Commencement Speaker Rubric, and select semi-finalists.
  2. Semi-finalists will participate in an in-person audition on Friday, March 22, on the Allendale Campus by presenting their intended Commencement comments to the Selection Committee. There are no alternate dates or times for auditions.

The committee will seek a diverse representation of GVSU students and consider the following when making their speaker selection:

  • Clarity of ideas
  • Appeal to a broad audience and common experience of Grand Valley students
  • Quality of speech content
  • Length of presentation
  • Extent to which the speech represents the Mission and Values of GVSU
  • Speaker’s delivery - well prepared, engaging, stage presence

Selected speaker(s) and applicants will be notified by the Office of the Provost.

Applicants will be reviewed using this Commencement Speaker rubric.

Assistance Available


GVSU Speech Lab

(616) 331-8115

[email protected]

The GVSU Speech Lab is a peer-to-peer communication center that helps students with all elements of oral presentations including: attention getters, delivery, organization, transitions, along with other fundamentals of addressing a large crowd.

Disability Support Resources

(616) 331-2490

[email protected]


General Questions


[email protected]


Important Dates


March 1 - 11:59 p.m.

Student applications and videos due.

March 15

Semi-finalists are informed of their selection – information about time and location for live auditions is provided.

March 22

In-person audition - Semi-finalists present intended Commencement comments in front of the Selection Committee. Auditions are scheduled in the afternoon on the Allendale Campus. There are no alternate dates or times for auditions.

March 25

Students are notified of final selections.

April 19

Final written Commencement comments submitted to Office of the Provost.

April 26 & 27

Commencement Ceremonies

Those selected to be a student Commencement speaker are required to work with a Speech Lab Consultant, as designated by the University, for the weeks leading up to the ceremony.

Student speakers must arrive early to the ceremony for a stage rehearsal, and attend and participate fully in the Commencement ceremony on the date and time for which they are selected.

Page last modified February 6, 2024