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W&M student Commencement speakers to discuss community, power of a good story

Update: Because of expected high temperatures, Saturday’s ceremony has been moved inside to Kaplan Arena. Friday evening’s ceremony remains outside at Zable. The story below has been updated to reflect the new location. - Ed.

William & Mary’s graduates will hear from two of their own during the university’s Commencement ceremonies later this month. Eli Rothleder ’22 will speak at the undergraduate ceremony on May 20, and Augustine Manga J.D.’22 will speak at the graduate student event on May 21.

Friday’s ceremony in Zable Stadium begins at 7 p.m., and Saturday’s is at 9 a.m. in Kaplan Arena.

Augustine Manga J.D. '22 (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)Manga, who holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, will be graduating with a law degree. During her time at W&M, she served on the executive boards of the Black Law Students Association, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Competition Team and the Honor Council. She has worked with multiple law firms, served as a research assistant in criminal law and completed an externship with a federal district court. After Commencement, Manga will be studying for the bar exam and moving to Ohio to start her legal career as a labor and employment associate.

Eli Rothleder '22 (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)A Monroe Scholar, Rothleder majored in economics with a minor in Russian and post-Soviet studies and worked with several research teams in economics. While at the university, he also served on the executive board of the Club Water Polo team, ran an unofficial film club for students and friends on campus and worked as a senior interviewer intern, a tour guide and an orientation aide. This summer, he will move to Boston to pursue a career in Economic Consulting at Charles River Associates.

W&M News recently caught up with Manga and Rothleder to discuss why they wanted to speak at Commencement and what they will discuss.

Why did you want to speak at Commencement?

Rothleder: I really love W&M, maybe more than is healthy, and I wanted to be able to describe why it was so important to me and connect with the rest of my class — many of whom I’ve come to know really well, and many of whom I wish I knew better — over the huge event of moving on. It’s one of those things that is both good and bad, and I felt like I had a nice way to talk about that and represent all the people here that I care about.

Manga: I wanted to speak at Commencement because I love motivating, encouraging and inspiring people. I love talking to people, giving advice and helping people feel empowered to tackle whatever they seek to accomplish. So, when the opportunity to apply to be Commencement speaker presented itself, I knew that I had to give it a shot. As the Commencement speaker, I will have the chance to address the entire Class of 2022 one last time before we enter the real world and begin the next chapter of our lives, and I do not take this opportunity lightly. The Class of 2022 has a special place in my heart, so being able to sing my class's praises and leave them with words of encouragement means more to me than words can express. 

Can you give us a preview of what themes your speech will touch on? What do you want fellow graduates to take away from it?

Manga: The overall theme of my speech is the power of a good story. I want my fellow graduates to know that each one of us has a story to tell, and because there is power in a good story, we should all be intentional about crafting an honest, authentic story that we would not only want to read but would also want to share with others. 

Rothleder: I don’t want to say too much, but the main focus of my speech is community and the bonds and shared experiences we have as a graduating class. I really want people to take away both the memories of our time here that we’ve had, and the importance of the other people in the class and our lives and the effect we have on one another.

What are you looking forward to about Commencement weekend?

Rothleder: I’m really excited for the senior walk. It seems like such a cool, reverse-convocation moment where we get to spend one last time all together and experience campus and all the memories and feelings associated with it. I’m also looking forward to getting to spend time with everybody without any stress of class or other stuff hanging over us and just having fun.

Manga: I am looking forward to celebrating the end of my law school journey with friends, family and the Class of 2022. I am looking forward to showing my friends and family the school and the town that I have called home for the past three years. And I am looking forward to finally receiving my law degree!