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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30 thoughts this senior has about senior year

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Soon…

Not even the beautiful fall foliage or Oprah’s Cinnamon Chai Latte (rage against the PSL!) can help me cope with the emotional toll of senior year. I can’t really put into words exactly how I feel, as I feel like I feel it all. Anyway, I’ll try to articulate these “feely” feelings as best as I can. Here’s a list of a few senior year-musings I’ve had recently:

Classes

1. (Beginning of the year) Can I audit 10 classes? So much to learn, so little time!

2. I’ve sat in on 10 more classes. I’ve learned nothing and I’m exhausted. Hello, friendly 4-course structure!

3. When did shopping period end? Or right, it’s October.

4. I’ve gone to pretty much all of this professor’s office hours, but apparently my name is still “Maria”.

5. I guess we aren’t BFFs after all </3

6. I am taking a graduate seminar and I feel cool.

7. I am taking a graduate seminar and my soul is dead.

8. Ok, whoever said senior year was chill has less chill than whoever took this snap.

Professional life

9. Should I start a start-up? Wait, do you “start” a start-up or “create” it? “Initiate” a start-up? What is the self?

10. LinkedIn is a cold and dry vortex of superficiality and also I probably shouldn’t use this selfie as my profile photo…

11. “Describe your previous job experience”: crying over not having job experience.

12. “Describe your computer skills”: I am a fast typer and my Neopets are all still alive, albeit “famished”.

13. For the 100th time, dear auntie, I am doing philosophy and cognitive science.

14. No, dear auntie, I’m not considering law school (or a lawyer husband) after Brown.

Activities

15. GCB challenge, SciLi challenge, Ratty challenge… MY BODY KNOWS NO LIMITS.

16. I should hit the Nelson Fitness Center more often. Just kidding, my body is well aware of its limits.

17. I need to get off the hill more often. Geoff’s doesn’t count. [Ed. note: Geoff’s counts on Two-For-One Tuesdays]

18. I should go to more WaterFires, even though I don’t exactly know what one should do at WaterFire.

19. Is this hill getting steeper each year, or am I just getting old? Was that my hip that just popped?

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Senior Send-off: Asking for help

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At the end of my sophomore year, I found myself sobbing into a cup of pudding at the Ratty.

Of course, by then, I had cried plenty of times. But this was the first time in college I’d ugly cried in public. I didn’t have the privacy of my room, or the drunken mutual understanding of a Keeney stairwell on a Saturday night: I was sitting immediately next to the apples and bananas, and I was crying. Audibly. Anyone trying to refill their coffee would have definitely heard my stifled sobs. They maybe would have even noticed the tears streaming down my face, splashing into vanilla custard.

This send-off isn’t about defining success or embracing uncertainty or taking active control of your happiness. Many bloggers have written about these topics—far better than I could. This send-off is about the low points of college.

Graduation is all too often a time when smiling is mandatory, and nostalgia overshadows reflection. The story of the past few years isn’t so neat, though. Success was not always inevitable, or expected. Not every pain became a teachable moment.

I want to talk about the low points, though, because they taught me that it’s okay to ask for help. As I was sitting in the Ratty, all I could worry about at the time was all the different ways I had already failed. I didn’t know what I was doing that summer, or where I was living. Switching majors was a terrible idea, and I’d never catch up to everyone else. My classes were tanking, and I was so behind in lecture that I didn’t even know how to be wrong anymore.

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Meet your Senior Commencement speakers!

As you may know, Brown University proudly upholds the tradition of electing two members of the graduating class to address the crowd of eager graduates rather than hiring a Commencement speaker from outside of the Brown community.

Many members of the Class of 2015 anonymously sent excerpts and ideas for a commencement speech to a ten-person committee, comprised of 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…

Michelle Bailhe ’15 and Lucas Johnson ’15

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Michelle Bailhe
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Concentration: Human Biology
Freshman Unit: Morris (Unit 19?) 4th floor
Most Likely to be Found: Morning: Scili basement, Afternoon: Carrels of the Rock, Night: Dance studio

Lucas Johnson
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Concentration: Education
Freshman Unit: Champlin 3rd floor, (s/o to Champlin Cheetahs, Christian Petroske, the 3rd and 4th floors)
Most Likely to be Found: Lurking around the Blue Room attempting to get his friends who are on meal plan to buy him something. At night, in the SciLi basement photoshopping absurd self-referential photos with his friends in order to avoid doing work.

BlogDailyHerald: Did you two know each other before being selected as the commencement speakers?

Michelle: No, but we have a mutual friend. Several actually. My friend who dances with me is living with him next year, but somehow we never met.

Lucas: It’s very strange, the overlap was astounding in retrospect.

BlogDHWhat motivated you to apply to be a speaker? Do either of you have public speaking experience?

Lucas: I didn’t expect to get nominated, I didn’t nominate myself, and I still don’t really know who nominated me. I just thought that it would be a very helpful exercise in reflecting over the past couple of years. And I thought, well, okay, someone felt that I had something important to say. So I took a lot of time processing that, and actually was very close to not submitting anything because trying to sum up four years in a couple of pages is really stressful. But I decided to give it a shot, and now I’m here.

Michelle: I remember the speeches that came out the year that we got into Brown, the 2011 speeches. I was still questioning my decision to come to Brown, and somewhat nervous about it. I remember Vivi Tran’s speech, “An Education in Altruism,” and that was the first time that I felt 100% that I had picked the perfect place and people for me. I wanted to be able to do something similar, and I think the fear of not being able to sum up four years in two pages definitely stopped me at first, but I realized it didn’t have to be that, and it could just be a “slice” of an experience that hopefully resonated with people. That became much easier to write.

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Last Call: Nicha Ratana-Apiromyakij

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. Find this year’s other “Last Call” chain here and our RISD “Last Call” chain here.

Then + Now

Then + Now

People might know me as… The woman who insists that every meeting happens at Baja’s, sends late and profusely emotive emails, has great shoes, or checks you out from across the Blue Room — hey.

In my time at Brown, I am most proud of… My amazing friends, who have brought me to their house open mics, to farms, to state parks at night, and taught me how to game pub trivia, how to dance ugly in public, how to be nice.

On a Friday night, you might find yourself… Shame-playing Sean Paul while the lamb is roasting.

The best class/professor at Brown is… The best class is Catherine Imbriglio’s Lyricism and Lucidity, because we had something really magical there. It’s so important for writers to build an intentional community of feedback and support; we helped each other through a lot.
The best professor is Deak Nabers, he has a powerful mind.

Three things you wish you knew freshman year…

  1. Learn how to cook! Every home-cooked meal is a gesture of love.
  2. Stop dating what you want to be, be what you want to be.
  3. Do the reading! Conversely, the ability to talk about a book you haven’t read is the most useful “real life” skill you’ll get from a liberal arts education.

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Last Call: Lauren Behgam

Then + Now

Then + Now

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. Find this year’s other “Last Call” chain here and our RISD “Last Call” chain here.

People might know you as… That chick with an undercut, a curly top knot, and a circle scarf tryna do contact improv with people in very public places.

In your time at Brown, you are most proud of… helping a program called Food Recovery Network get up and running at Brown and at other college campuses across the country. Basically, students take excess food from their dining halls to nearby community partners. #nofoodwaste

On a Friday night, you might find yourself… Cooking a muy rico dinner with my roomies at ~SpEcIaL fAnCy HaUs~, chugging wine, and doing tarot card readings. If I’m feeling energetic, Twerk Fridays at Ego.

The best class/professor at Brown is… anything with Ralph Rodriguez. I’ve never had a professor so committed to their students who also busts our brains open (in the best way) on the reg.

Three things you wish you knew freshman year…

  1. Sign up for less stuff. Srsly chill.
  2. Take classes you are truly interested in rather than for skills that you think you need.
  3. Be an Ethnic Studies concentrator.

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