Jessica Scuderi, ‘21, was selected as the student commencement speaker for the class of 2021, where she will have the opportunity to address students and their families at Goodman Stadium on May 24.
Hailing from Old Brookville, New York, Scuderi majored in international relations and minored in health, medicine, and society as well as biology. The Brown and White sat down with Scuderi to discuss her speech and learn about her time at Lehigh.
Q: What motivated you to apply to be the student commencement speaker?
Jessica Scuderi: I would say it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I would always joke around with my family ever since I got to Lehigh that this would be something that I did. So when the application came out I said, “OK this is finally my chance to not be all talk” and just pursue it. I just really wanted to be up there representing the student body and be able to publicly reflect on my time at Lehigh because I’m very appreciative of what Lehigh’s given me. I thought it would be a nice way to get closure and I also love being on stage.
Q: What’s the topic of your speech?
JS: I wouldn’t say my speech has a specific theme or message but it’s more so reflecting on the different obstacles and the amazing things that happened over the course of our time at Lehigh. I talk about the struggles we’ve had here and how Lehigh has prepared us for what’s coming next, especially with everything that has been going on over the past year. We’ve still been able to accomplish so much and really make the most of our time here so I just really wanted to make it a celebration of our accomplishments, but also appreciating everything we’ve done to get to where we are. I really tried to write a speech for the people. I didn’t want to get up there and just talk about myself or use it as a platform to pursue my own agenda. I just really wanted to write a speech that celebrated everybody.
Q: What have you been involved with on campus during your time at Lehigh?
JS: I’m a member of Student Senate and I’m very proud of that. I’m on the health, safety and wellness committee. I’ve been involved there for over two years now and I love the group of people. Just the idea of student government, it’s something that I’ve always been involved in and kind of learning about the inner workings of Lehigh has been a very cool experience. The health, safety and wellness committee also served as a COVID-19 response committee this year so that was very interesting. I was also an orientation leader and that had to be the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had in my life and easily the best thing I’ve done since I’ve been at Lehigh. The group of people and the energy was unmatched and the whole experience was incredible. It’s also where I met my best friends. I’m also a member of Alpha Omicron Pi and I met some of my best friends there, as well. Through (Alpha Omicron Pi) I’ve held so many different positions. I was the diversity and inclusion chair, I was the global outreach chair, I was a member of the all greek council for the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs and I was our probation progress chair.
Q: What do you want the audience to take away from your speech?
JS: I feel like it’s so easy, especially over the past year, to pick on Lehigh and pick on the administration and say they’re not doing certain things right. I feel like everybody’s had a problem with Lehigh this past year, but I really just wanted to touch on the fact that although it’s easy to criticize, we really should just be appreciative of what Lehigh has given us and what we’ve been able to accomplish here. I would say the biggest takeaway is just being proud of the fact that Lehigh has been a part of our journeys thus far and what it really means to be a Lehigh student and holding those values as we continue on to our respective post-graduate chapters, but to also humble ourselves a bit, because I feel like at Lehigh, everybody holds themselves in pretty high regard. We’ve all struggled here and I think maybe my speech will remind some people of that. Overall, I hope people takeaway to be appreciative and to celebrate—it’s a huge accomplishment! Graduating from Lehigh is not the easiest thing but we’ve all made it.
Q: Given the current state of the world, what message do you want to send to the class of 2021?
JS: Something I’ve always said is to just keep moving forward. Pushing yourself to put one foot in front of the other regardless of what’s going on around you is not easy, but something we’ve all managed to do over the past year. With coronavirus and it feeling like the world was shutting down, there were and are still things we can do to succeed and to better ourselves. To always keep moving forward in that aspect I would say is my mantra.
Q: What are some of the things you’re going to miss most about Lehigh?
JS: Honestly, everything. I’ve truly loved my experience, all the good and the bad, I’ve loved all of it. I love the aesthetic, the atmosphere and I feel like being a part of a group of people that really want to have an impact and being a part of a school where everyone just strives for greatness is such a great place to be. Lehigh has become a home of mine and it’s always hard to leave home. I feel like I’ve really established myself here and I’ve grown a lot. As much as coming to Lehigh was stepping outside of my comfort zone, leaving Lehigh is going to be stepping out of my comfort zone as well.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
JS: I’m currently in the final stages of some job interviews but I plan to be in New York City after graduation. I’m pursuing a career in human resources, marketing or consulting. I do know that I’ve always wanted to be in the business of people. At Lehigh, I found that there was not one particular field that I really excelled at except for dealing with people and being around people. I have always thrived in leadership positions so that’s why I believe human resources is the best path for me to pursue.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?JS: I really want to get across how proud I am to be graduating from Lehigh and to be a part of the class of 2021. There’s truly no greater honor than to be selected by your peers to speak for them and represent them at graduation—it’s not something that I take lightly. I’m very excited and I hope that I can do my whole class justice.