The Featured Students of Commencement 2018

Northwestern’s 160th Commencement ceremony will be held on June 22, 2018, at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. This annual graduation celebration will honor the graduating class of 2018, and recognize all that they have accomplished during their time spent at Northwestern. 

Each year, two students are selected to speak during the ceremony. This year, John Franklin will introduce the Commencement address speaker Renée Fleming and Sumaia Masoom will deliver the welcome address. 


John Franklin (electrical engineering and computer science major, McCormick School of Engineering; music composition and commercial music minor, Bienen School of Music):

When he first came to Northwestern, John Franklin considered himself to be a “nervous” public speaker. “I’m surprised at how much I’ve grown,” he admitted. “My fall quarter freshman year, I took Public Speaking, and now I’m seeing that pay off. It’s absolutely mind boggling.”

Now, Franklin will speak in front of the class of 2018 and their friends and family as the introductory speaker for Renée Fleming during Commencement. “I'm proud that I’m able to represent the Northwestern student body for her,” he said. “I saw her at the Lyric Opera a few years back with my parents and it was definitely one of the most memorable vocal performances I have seen. Being a music student here, it means a lot to have someone representing the music community for our campus.”

Music, though, is just one of the worlds Franklin has explored during his time at Northwestern. “When I first came here, I thought just of being electrical engineering and taking those classes, but I've been able to really explore through RTVF and Bienen, and really broaden my horizons beyond just engineering,” he said. “Even if I don't go down all of those paths, even just being aware of what other students are doing has been really good insight for me.”

Between balancing engineering, music, and extracurriculars, Franklin said that his best memories were the smaller moments spent with friends. “My favorites are the collections of late night shenanigans with friends,” he said. “That could mean anything from going downtown to an arcade bar to staying in and playing Settlers of Catan until the sun rises. Especially the Catan nights. Those are the best.”
After graduation, Franklin is looking forward to his summer internship as a machine learning researcher at Pixar and will be working at Google as as a software engineer in the fall.

Sumaia Masoom (Social policy major, School of Education and Social Policy; political science and legal studies minor, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences):

Sumaia Masoom’s Northwestern experience didn’t start out so easily. She tried out a lot of clubs and met a lot of new people, but nothing was quite was she was looking for. Until she found Model UN. “Everyone was either super passionate about global affairs or wanted to learn more about global affairs,” she explained. “It was a really positive environment for me. Everyone working toward a common cause really creates a bond and you find people who are interested in the same things as you.”

It also was a place that gave Masoom the freedom and comfort to know things, but also admit to not knowing things, something she plans to discuss during her Commencement Welcome Address. “I am really excited for the opportunity to share stories about both success and failure,” she explained. “I think talking about failure is not something that we do enough of at Northwestern. Especially with our ‘And is in our DNA’ culture, one ‘and’ we don't talk about is success and failure.”

Although Northwestern is a place full of challenges — and yes, failures — Masoom said that she found the ability to accept and flourish in the face of failure through community support. “The SESP community and being surrounded by people who love learning and love to explore their passions not just for the sake of their resumes have been so instrumental in shaping me as a person,” Masoom said. “It's such a cliche but if you sit down and talk to anyone in the library or at the dining hall about what they're doing or what they're interested in, everyone is passionate about something, even if they don't recognize it themselves.”

That "diversity and versatility" of the Northwestern experience, as Masoom so eloquently put it, is also what she found so rewarding about her time here. "Even though we have totally different interests and career paths, you can find somebody to laugh and talk about anything with in any of these communities," she said.

After graduation, Masoom will move to San Francisco for a two-year rotational program at Visa. Eventually, she plans to head to graduate school to earn a PhD in political communications.