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Brian Anyakoha '18 selected as student Commencement speaker

  • Student speaker:
    Student speaker:  Brian Anyakoha '18 is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and a concentration in premedical studies.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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As graduating seniors try on their caps and gowns, engage in the last of William & Mary’s coveted traditions and prepare for the next chapter in their lives, feelings of anxious anticipation and uncertainty are comprehensible, according to Brian Anyakoha '18. It is these thoughts of apprehension, termed the “veil of doubt,” that Anyakoha wishes to dispel on May 12 in Zable Stadium as this year’s student Commencement speaker.

“When we enter and exit college, we often doubt ourselves, worrying we won’t succeed or live up to the expectations of those who came before us,” Anyakoha said. “But as we exit, we are prepared to face what is next, given what we’ve already gone through.”

Anyakoha reflected on the growth and preparation he has experienced during his four years at William & Mary, noting that his development both as a scholar and an individual has equipped him for his post-graduate life.

“From William & Mary, I will take with me a sense of pride in who I am and an acknowledgement of what I want to be,” he said. “I am passionate; I want to grow. I am someone who wants to learn more about myself, others around me and the world at large.”

Anyakoha, originally from Woodbridge, Virginia, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and a concentration in premedical studies. A WMSURE Scholar and Honors Fellow, he has spent his time at the university in constant service of his campus and local community. He is on the executive board of the William & Mary chapter of the NAACP and a member of the Student Assembly Cabinet. Marked by his desire to forge and pursue new passions, Anyakoha has served as a member of William & Mary Choir, Alma Mater Productions and Students of Hip-Hop Legacy.

Anyakoha described his desire to apply to be the student Commencement speaker as long-lasting. Having perceived a sentiment of self-doubt in his peers, Anyakoha explained that he had a message to get off his chest — one that he perceived as resonating with many students.  

“Sometimes,” he said, “you have to stop and realize how far you’ve come before you try to look to where you’re going.”

As Anyakoha looked back on his four years as a student at William & Mary, he expressed gratitude for both the accomplishments and challenges that characterize his college experience.

“During college, we have stumbles and failures and mishaps,” he said. “But we also have successes and purposeful, momentous events that serve as an impetus for growth. That impetus will propel us into the next stage.”

Anyakoha emphasized that, with his speech, he wishes to convey the significance of the growth William & Mary has fostered in its students.

“There really is beauty in the journey,” he said. “We’ve gone through all this time of coming to terms with failure, realizing our limitations, and in many cases, surpassing them. We’ve realized we’re more than a letter grade, a few numbers or statistics. We’ve realized there are different kinds of intelligence we possess.

“That realization, itself, is an acquisition of wisdom.”