Shannon DeFranza to give student commencement speech


Courtesy of Shannon DeFranza

Shannon DeFranza is the student commencement speaker.

Jimmy Sadowski, News Editor

Commencement is just around the corner, for some seniors they are preparing to say goodbye or finishing up their class, for others, like Shannon DeFranza, they are preparing to give the commencement speech to their peers.

 DeFranza is an Architecture major, with minors in Sustainability and Art and Architectural History.

As for extracurriculars, she is the National Vice President-Elect for the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), having previously served as the AIAS Northeast Quadrant Director, dances for the Hawkettes and RWU Dance Club, and she has a membership on the Sustainability and Resiliency Task Force.

DeFranza has also helped Professor Steve Esons with coordinating Student Academic and Honors Showcase (SASH) projects where she tried to push for sustainability. She is passionate about RWU’s human rights advocacy seminars and working with Scholars at Risk as a liaison to advocate for imprisoned scholar Ahmadreza Djalai.

DeFranza said it feels weird to be graduating.

“It’s just very weird that my time here at Roger Williams University is ending, my friends and I have been saying that it has been hitting us in waves that we’re not freshmen anymore.”

DeFranza also said she has been wanting to speak at a college graduation for a long time.

“I’ve been dreaming about giving a speech at a college graduation since I was little,” said DeFranza. “I gave my eighth-grade graduation speech for my little public middle school and I’ve always loved public speaking.”

In terms of a speech preview, DeFranza did not want to give too much away but revealed some themes and messages she wanted to get across.

“The biggest theme that I put in is the importance of community and making sure your community is taken care of, especially as we are about to go into very rough times,” said DeFranza. “We have been told as our generation we are the ones that have to fix it all and that is a lot of pressure, but I think we can really pull it off.”

“I want to celebrate the resiliency of our class,” said DeFranza. “I think we’ve grown a lot in the last year in ways that were not advertised to us when we walked in the door. Also, I really want people to feel like there’s hope we’re entering into a world that doesn’t look too inviting sometimes with the job market. I think kind of giving that message of hope and really motivating but not in just a cookie-cutter way, but actually talking about the issues that we face and talking about follow through and commitment.”

A memory DeFranza looks back on fondly from her time at RWU are the dance shows she was in.

“Those days are crazy!” said DeFranza. “We start rehearsing at noon that day, and I usually get there early to practice. Then, we finished at 9 at night, and of course, leading up to that we have dress rehearsals all week, so you’re really just with this great group of people all day.”

DeFranza’s favorite thing about RWU is the community, not just with students, but with professors as well. She said she came to RWU because she liked the small class sizes and wanted a personal connection with professors. In her senior year, she said her professors felt more like friends she could talk to about anything.

Still, DeFranza feels her speech is bittersweet.

“Well it makes me cry sometimes,” she said. “I think it’s going to make people feel a little bit sad and wistful that things are coming to an end, but everything is bittersweet with the graduation. I hope I can capture those emotions everybody’s feeling. I hope people feel proud.”

DeFranza also wanted to thank everyone at RWU for the memories.

“Thanks for the memories. It has been a very long and challenging time. There have been times where I’ve been pulling two days straight awake to finish an architecture project and somebody will just stop by my desk and make me smile and it makes it all worth it. Thanks to all the people that have kept me going when I didn’t feel like that was possible,” DeFranza said.

After graduation, DeFranza plans to move to Washington D.C. in June to serve her role as the Vice President of the American Institute of Architecture Students for a year. After, she said she may work in architecture or sustainability or possibly attend graduate school to study design and climate change research at the same time.