When Erin Garrity, ’18, checked her email in the middle of March and saw there was an opportunity to apply for the senior class commencement speaker, she thought it was fake.
She reached out to Student Senate President Matt Rothberg, ’18, to double-check that the email was real. Rothberg said this was the first year Student Senate selected the student who will speak at commencement.
In past years, the class president spoke at commencement. Since the class officer program is being phased out, Student Senate has determined a new selection process for graduating seniors to apply to be the student commencement speaker.
Garrity, who serves as the vice president of Greek relations on Lehigh’s Panhellenic Council, has held a variety leadership roles throughout her time at Lehigh and plans to share her experiences with her graduating class.
“I think that my experience here has been well-rounded enough where if I went up and spoke about what I have done here, many different people could relate to me,” Garrity said.
Garrity has also served as the vice president of membership development and accreditation chair of Lehigh’s chapter of Pi Beta Phi, and she expanded her reach in the entire Greek community as a mentor and ultimately the coordinator of the Greek Emerging Leaders program. She also served as a tour guide.
At commencement, Garrity will share the stage with Fortune 500’s 16th Most Powerful Woman, Deloitte CEO and Lehigh alumna, Cathy Engelbert, ‘86.
Juan Shiraishi, ’18, the chair of Student Senate’s commencement committee, said the committee was composed of four Senate members and one representative from the Association of Student Alumni. During the selection process, they wanted to choose someone who would say something valuable to the senior class.
“We wanted to pick someone who is going to leave the senior class with a feeling of pride in what they’ve done at Lehigh and a feeling of excitement — that childlike wonder in all opportunities ahead,” Shiraishi said.
Shiraishi said when narrowing down applicants, they looked for a person who was involved in the Lehigh community, represented the graduating class, spoke well and upheld the Lehigh mission and values.
“We have over 1,000 students in our grade and so many of them are leaders, so many of them have built names for themselves over the past four years,” Rothberg said. “I think when we’re able to pick from the best it leads to the best possible speaker that we can have.”
The application process included a video application followed by an in-person interview.
Garrity, who said she is excited about her speech next month, plans to reflect on her four years at Lehigh while also making people laugh.
“I feel honored to speak alongside Engelbert and celebrate girl power,” Garrity said. “She’s a strong female in business and she serves as a role model for all women and graduates at Lehigh this year. She’s someone that I aspire to be, and it’s amazing that strong women are taking over commencement.”