Commencement featured four student speakers
By Katie Ellis
Four students were selected to speak at Binghamton University's Commencement ceremonies, held at the Events Center on campus May 16-17.
Holly Wendt spoke at the Graduate School ceremony, Natalie Sena spoke at the Sunday morning Harpur College ceremony, Lindsay Gina spoke at the professional schools' ceremony, and Renee Lasher spoke at the Sunday afternoon Harpur ceremony.
Wendt (at right in photo), who received her PhD in English with a creative writing concentration and a minor in medieval studies, wrote House of Fallen Leaves, a historical novel, for her dissertation. She earned a Graduate Student Excellence in Teaching Award this year, presented at several conferences and served in a number of capacities, including managing editor for the literary journal Harpur Palate. She finds it difficult to conceive of being done with her formal education after nine years of post-secondary study and will work on her second novel — Fold — following graduation.
“I’ll constantly be in the act of reading and writing. It never really ends and I’m glad about that,” she said. She’s also working on a translation of the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf and is “up to her chin” in medieval studies.
Sena received her bachelor of arts degree with a double major in studio art and anthropology. As someone with strong family ties to Binghamton — her mother and uncle are both alumni — Sena always heard stories growing up about the opportunities Binghamton University provided. The stories, she said, absolutely rang true. And she did her best to take advantage of them by working in the Harpur Dean’s Office, for Harpur Advising and as a Discovery Adviser, and serving as an officer for Hinman College Council, on the Orientation Registration Committee and as a teaching assistant in the Department of Art, among her other activities.
She’s proud to represent the majority of Binghamton students as their speaker.
“We are leaders, diverse and up 24/7 taking advantage of opportunities. Not everyone can be MVP or the SA president, but I was down in the trenches with everyone,” she said.
Sena will attend the University at Albany in the fall, working toward a master’s degree in educational administration and policy studies with a concentration in higher education.
She’ll be a graduate assistant to the vice president for student success. Her goal, she said, is to work on a campus teaching in an art department where she can become the leader in the department, combining all of her passions.
Lasher graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art history, and will attend graduate school for a master’s in elementary education with dual certification in special education. She hopes to become a teacher and incorporate her love for art into her teaching.
“Creativity is a wonder to children and they appreciate it in many more ways than adults often do,” she said.
At Binghamton, Lasher used her artistic talents to paint murals for the Latin American Student Union and the Black Student Union. She was also captain of Club Softball, a member of the Art History Association, a member of the Senior Class Council and active in Chabad and Hillel events.
For Lasher, speaking at Commencement gives her the chance to review the experiences she and fellow students had.
“Everything here (at Binghamton) was important to us,” she said. “My speech incorporates so many different parts of our experiences. I’ve included aspects of everything that I hope people will want to hear — especially that part of my speech incorporates them. It comes down to the personal.”
Gina had already planned to write letters of thanks to certain people on campus when she learned she could apply to speak at Commencement. She’s still going to write the letters, but had a much larger forum to talk about how she was inspired as a student at Binghamton.
“I want to share my thoughts with as many other graduates as I can,” she said.
Gina, who received her bachelor’s degree in human development, plans to attend graduate school to earn an MBA in hospital administration.
“I really enjoyed my internship working at the Greater Binghamton Health Center in their administrative department,” she said. “I really enjoyed that I was still working in the medical field, but on the business side of things.”
A teacher’s assistant at the Campus Preschool and Early Childhood Center, Gina also held several roles, including president of Alpha Xi Delta, Zeta Phi Chapter, and was involved in the sorority’s philanthropic activities to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and the Breast Cancer Walk.
She hopes to pass along to fellow graduates that “the only obstacles you have in your life are those that are self-imposed.” Gina heard this quote in a class and began using it in other areas of her life. It reminded her that “my time here is very short and I need to live life to the fullest.”