Friday, May 18, 2012

Fabulous undergradaute runners-up for commencement

Einar Barr spoke beautifully on Saturday at Kogod's commencement. She touched on "personal journeys"--an apt metaphor whether one came from the mid-Atlantic or, in her case, from Israel. As befits a business school speaker, she played on multiple meanings of the words "investment," "assets" and "debt"--as in "debts of gratitude."

Looking back we know that the judges gnashed their teeth plenty while making their selection among the other finalists, Dylan Vogt, Jessica Noonan and Samantha (Sam) Dina.

Dylan Vogt’s thoughtful proposed speech used the metaphor of coffee to explore his time at Kogod. And this coffee is no Starbucks Caramel Macchiato with two pumps of artificial vanilla and whipped cream topping but an honest, pure and utterly delicious cup of java that he tasted while in Guatemala. 

The barista was in fact the coffee farmer himself who said,

"While other coffee growers grow just coffee, I grow coffee, oranges, mangos, bananas, and vanilla, [with the]magnificent flavor resulting from the diversity of my fields.”

A similar diversity is what makes Kogod so successful, Dylan said, concluding,

"I look forward to seeing the success that awaits all of you, the positive influence that you will pass to those around you, and, similar to Fernando’s coffee, the magnificent flavor that you will bring to the future of business."

 *   *

Jess Noonan’s
 proposed charming speech reassured any nervous new grads that what’s coming next is in fact familiar. For example, the lessons of “being nice” from grade school have become “play to each other’s strengths” when working in a team: 

“In my first finance class I was intimidated and amazed when the finance majors of my group were able to crunch numbers at lightning speed, but I was able to pull my weight by amazing them with a beautiful presentation."
She also praised the well-roundedness of the Kogod degree: 

“Kogod finance majors can market to their clients and Kogod Marketing majors understand Excel. These skills will drive our competitive edge and set us apart from other recent graduates.”

*  *

The theme of Samantha Dina’s speech was that you can imagine yourself into the future. It all started when she and her fellow graduates were prospective students: 

“You may have imagined yourself as the fraternity president playing football on the quad with his fellow brothers, the super-stylish barista at the Dav who was best friends with all of her coworkers, or the kid in the suit with briefcase in hand, talking on his Blackberry in a tone that made you think he singlehandedly was running the New York Stock Exchange. "
With that vision in hand, Sam says, “…you [took] any necessary steps to make that vision become a reality....

“So you joined a club, you got an amazing internship, you rushed a fraternity …or in true American University style, you did all the above. You started forming relationships …These people became your family and were just as dedicated to your dream as you were..
* *

As Kogod's speech coach, it was a pleasure and privilege for me to work with all of these talented finalists. Best of luck to each of you in your future lives as business communicators!


  1. To whom it may concern,

    My name is Sara Aisenberg, and I'm the associate director of educational outreach at, which is a surety insurance agency based out of Columbia, Missouri. has recently established our first nationwide scholarship program targeting students with small business experience, and we're trying to get the word out about it. Would it be possible for our scholarship program to be featured on your blog: ? This is a great resource through which American University business students can learn about all that the Kogod School of Business has to offer, and I know they appreciate your department for maintaining it.

    You can see our online scholarship program in its entirety here:

    You can also read more about the program in this blog post:

    The following is a brief synopsis of the scholarship program.

    Through our Small Business Success Student Scholarship program, hopes to hear all about the small business experiences young entrepreneurs across the nation have gained, whether personally or from observing family members working to make a way for themselves. Three deserving individuals will win a $1,500 scholarship to use toward furthering their education at the college or university of their choice.

    The Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program is open to students in every state. All entries must be received no later than March 31, 2013, to be eligible for the contest. Applications may only be submitted online. Each student must submit a 500 to 1,000-word essay about "How small business ownership (personal, parent, grandparent, or legal guardian) has shaped you into the person you are today."

    If you have any questions about or our scholarship program, you may contact me via email at or via phone at 1 (800) 308-4358 ext. 210.

    Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing back from you.