Meet your .5 Commencement speakers!

This Saturday, 119 students will finish their Brown careers. The “Midyear Completion Celebration” will honor those we colloquially call “.5ers” with a small ceremony taking place in Sayles. As is tradition for Spring Commencement, two soon-to-be-graduates were chosen to speak at the ceremony. BlogDH caught up with Bee Vang and Adrienne Tran on why they decided to .5 and what they plan on saying to their fellow graduates. You can watch a livestream of the ceremony on December 5 @ 4 p.m. here.

Adrienne Tran (right)

Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Concentration: Independent Concentration in Computer Science and Development
Most likely to be found: in the CIT

Bee Vang (left)

Hometown: Twin Cities, MN
Concentration: Independent Concentration in Geopolitical Epistemologies
Most likely to be found in: a Starbucks

Why did you decide to .5? Both of you took three semesters off?

Adrienne: Yeah. I was studying Computer Science, and I felt like there is an element of it I was missing– how computer science could be applied to real world problems. I followed a professor to Australia who was doing work in modeling disaster evacuations and applying computer algorithms to how you could create this optimal plan. So I left because I wanted to do research with him.

Bee: I guess I just wanted real world experiences, and I wasn’t too satisfied at the time with what I was studying. I just needed time away from Brown. I worked for several NGOs, went overseas and did some research. I had a chance to professionally develop myself before going back to Brown, and graduating with a degree that I originally didn’t know what to do with it. That’s sort of why went on leave. I thought I was only going to take one semester, then I decided I would take another year off just to work in New York.

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Last Call: Katharine (Kappi) Patterson

As the semester progresses at the speed of light, the senior class is beginning to make peace with that fateful day in May: Commencement. Until the class of 2015 leaves us, BlogDH wants to highlight all the interesting things they’ve been up to. To this end, we’re (re)starting the series Last Call, which features seniors reflecting on their experiences at Brown. Each featured senior will tag another senior for the next installment. 

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Then + Now


People might know me as… The once-off substitute captain of the runners-up in the 2013 Intramural Inner Tube Water Polo league.

In my time at Brown, I am most proud of… Only getting called out in junior year for shamelessly making up my own nickname and successfully getting it used ubiquitously.

On a Friday night, you might find yourself… Meticulously cutting holes in F’real loyalty cards so as to gain free F’reals after only buying one from Campus Market.

The best class/professor at Brown is… Design and Analysis of Algorithms, taught by Paul Valiant. 

Three things you wish you knew freshman year… 1) The Blue Room didn’t invent the breakfast bagel. They are actually a pretty common food. 2) It’s called an eraser in America. Don’t loudly ask for a rubber in VISA 100. 3) Be on the lookout for a new startup called Snapchat around September 2011. Don’t ask questions – just invest in it immediately.

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Calling all seniors: Nominate your Commencement speakers!


As much as we might hate to admit it, seniors, graduation is looming not-so-far on the horizon for us. Whether this has become apparent to you through your family’s incessant inquiries about your post-grad plans over Thanksgiving break (jeez, can’t you let me finish my turkey before staging an interrogation?!) or being buried alive in books at your thesis carrel, there’s no denying that that infamous day in May is approaching–and approaching quickly.

That terrifying prospect aside, Brown’s Commencement ceremony is unique in that it gives us the chance to nominate our own classmates to speak on behalf of the class of 2015. Earlier today, our Dean of the College Maud Mandel sent seniors an email reminding us of this opportunity. In case you missed it, Dean Mandel wrote: “Senior orators are nominated by Brown seniors and faculty. You may nominate two seniors for the honor; self-nominations are permitted. Criteria for selection include articulateness and wit, scholarship, activity within the University community, and an interest in public speaking.”

Feel as though you’re up for the task? Or know someone who is? Click here to nominate your classmate, roommate, peer, or person you don’t really know but admire from afar to be a senior orator. As soon as the nominations have been collected, nominees will be notified about the details of applying. The nomination period ends Wednesday, December 31 at 11 p.m.

Commencement happens only once for each of us, and Brown gives us the amazing opportunity and authority to design it as we see fit. Don’t miss this opportunity. And try not to cry too much into your diploma when the time comes to receive it.

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Nominate candidates for this year’s Honorary Degrees!


As you may know, a few lucky individuals receive honorary degrees from Brown University at our Commencement ceremony each May. Past winners have ranged from Thomas Jefferson, to Nelson Mandela, to our very own Ruth Simmons. Needless to say, it would be an honor to join the ranks of these successful and talented people who have been recognized by the University for their excellence.

And now, Brunonia, it’s your turn to take matters into your hands. The Advisory Committee on Honorary Degrees invites you to share who you believe deserve this year’s degrees. According to the Committee, they “hope to identify individuals who have achieved unquestioned distinction in some field, especially an academic field, or whose contributions to the public good and human welfare are of sufficient magnitude to warrant recognition.  Individuals whose accomplishments are local or regional, as well as those of international renown, also are of interest to the Committee.”

Letters of nomination “should explain why Brown would wish to honor that individual at this time.  Initial letters of recommendation may be brief, but ultimately additional background information on the nominee in the form of a resume, curriculum vitae, or narrative will be important to consider.” These and any other related materials should be sent to the Committee on Honorary Degrees, c/o Ms. Cheryl Moreau, Office of Faculty Governance, Box 1830, 402 University Hall no later than September 22, 2014.

Let your voices be heard! Personally, we still have our sights set on seeing one Dave Binder take home a diploma…

Meet Your Senior Commencement speakers!

As you may know, Brown University proudly eschews the traditional hired Commencement speaker in favor of speeches from two members of the graduating class.

Over 80 members of the Class of 2014 anonymously sent fragments and ideas for a commencement speech to a ten-person committee, comprising Deans McSharry and Rodriguez, four seniors (chosen by those deans), and four faculty members (including Professor Barbara Tannenbaum of the famed Persuasive Communication course). The committee selected about 10 finalist proposals, whose writers were given recommendations and asked to flesh out and perform their entire speech. Based on those performances, the committee selected the two commencement speakers. Introducing…

Caroline Bologna ’14 and Joshua Block ’14!

This is what Caroline (left) and Josh (right) look like behind a lectern.

This is what Caroline (left) and Josh (right) look like behind a lectern.

If you don’t yet know these impressive seniors personally, you’ll become intimately acquainted with them on Commencement morning. To give you a preview, BlogDailyHerald sat down for coffee with Caroline and Josh. Here we go.

Joshua Block ‘14

Hometown: Sharon, MA
Concentration: Political Science, Philosophy
Freshman Unit: Archibald (Unit 2!)
Most likely to be found: “Probably in the Blue Room, or Faunce generally. Or on the Main Green on a nice day.”

Caroline Bologna ‘14

Hometown: New Orleans, LA
Concentration: Comparative Literature, French Studies
Freshman Unit: West Andrews (Best Andrews!)
Most likely to be found: “Similar [to Josh]. Or I guess also in that conference room in the BDH for Post- every Wednesday. Also Chipotle.”

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Last Call: Marc Briz

As the semester progresses at the speed of light, the senior class is beginning to make peace with that fateful day in May: Commencement. Until the class of 2014 leaves us, BlogDH wants to highlight all the interesting things they’ve been up to. To this end, we’re (re)starting the series Last Call, which features seniors reflecting on their experiences at Brown. Each featured senior will tag another senior for the next installment. Find this year’s other “Last Call” chain here.

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Then + Now

People might know me as…  Jeggings. Golf sweaters. Rockefeller Library resident. Laughter that has no respect for quiet spaces. History and Middle East Studies concentrator with an affinity for the following buzzwords: queer ontologies, digital nonfiction, discursive violence. Coffee.

In my time at Brown, I am most proud of…  Making friends I’ll want to play with until I’m 88. Seriously, I can’t get enough of these kids—and that will bring me more warmth than any resumé bullet point can muster.

On a Friday night, you might find yourself… I’m definitely dancing. Most often in a crowded living room. I’m relentlessly trying to conjure my hometown Little Havana, Miami and all its hip swings and yelling and aggressive gesticulating. I’m a whirlwind of limbs. And it’s all a result of a magical, Isabel Allende-inspired upbringing. It’s my best form of prayer.

The best class/professor at Brown is… An impossible question. Best lecturer is Robert Self. Best seminar faciltator is Maud Mandel. Best humble radical is Amy Remensnyder. Best office hour holder and Twitter user is Shiva Balaghi. Best (anti-imperialist) writing mentor is Naoko Shibusawa. Is it obvious I love my department? Continue Reading