Fergus Falls alumna delivers MSUM commencement addressPublished 11:07am Wednesday, June 4, 2014 Updated 11:34am Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Four years ago, Emma Van Valkenburg had just graduated from Fergus Falls and given a commencement speech during the ceremony.
Last month, she did it again.
Van Valkenburg graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead on May 16 and again gave a commencement address. But this one was a little more nerve-wracking than her high school experience.
“Once I got up there and had my speech figured out, it was a lot better,” Van Valkenburg said.
She was nominated to give the speech by professors in the College of Education and Human Services, which was due to have a student speaker at this year’s graduation.
She was then interviewed by the Dean of the College, along with three other students. After those interviews, as well as another visitation, Van Valkenburg was finally selected as the commencement speaker.
She had two weeks to prepare her speech. She tried to gather some ideas by watching other speeches on Youtube, but that did not help her much.
As with her high school speech, Van Valkenburg wanted to keep things light while also imparting a few valuable lessons on the audience. But humor was certainly her calling card.
“I just wanted to stay true to who I was,” she said.
She also made sure to pay particular attention to staff members who may not always be recognized in these kinds of speeches, including certain professors and school librarians. For Van Valkenburg, the speech had to be reflective of her personal experience but also general enough to reach the entire audience.
Her moment came about halfway through the ceremony, after she and the rest of her College had received their diplomas. Although she was still nervous, and seeing her face on the Jumbotron did not help calm her nerves, she delivered a six-minute speech of which she is proud.
Van Valkenburg said she does not yet truly feel like a college graduate, especially since she will be going back to the Moorhead campus in the fall to pursue a graduate degree in speech pathology.
But having now made two commencement speeches, she is surely thankful for the opportunities to share her thoughts and feelings with a large group.
“I’m just really happy that I did it,” Van Valkenburg said. “It was a really great experience.”