Class Speaker Competition

Graduating students interested in being selected as Class Speaker are asked to review the instructions for our four-part process and be especially alert to deadlines. Participants must be either October 2018, February 2019 graduates or May, October 2019 graduate degree candidates (MPH, MHA, MS, DrPH, PhD) who were/are actively registered during the 2018-2019 academic year. Dual MPH students who are currently registered at their partner schools are eligible. In addition to the selection process, please find some helpful tips and hints below for when preparing your remarks.

Please feel free to contact the Office of Student Affairs with any questions about this honor.

Class Speaker Selection

1. Remarks Submission: Due April 5 by 12:00 PM

Anyone interested in becoming Class Speaker must draft a 7-minute speech and submit the entire text via Engage. The deadline is April 5 at 12:00 noon. You are encouraged to review the guide below for suggestions on preparing your remarks. Please note the that the April 5 deadline has been extended from previous years and is the absolute latest we are able to accomodate submissions. We will unfortunately not be able to take late submissions.

2. Reader Review: April 5 – 11

A committee of Mailman staff, faculty, and students will review remarks submitted for consideration anonymously. Students selected as semi-finalists will be notified on April 11.

3. Video Review: April 13 – 26

Semi-finalists will coordinate with OSA to record a one-minute video explaining why they wish to be the Class Speaker. Recordings must be conducted on either April 12 or April 15. All students who submit remarks are encouraged to begin preparing their one-minute pitch soon after their initial submission and before the dates set for recording.

These video recordings will be published online on April 16 for all prospective graduates to view and vote upon. Graduates will vote for their top two choices. Voting will close April 25. The top choices from this stage will be notified on April 26 and move on to the final stage.

4. Finalist Review: Wednesday, May 1, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 PM (Allan Rosenfield Building, 8th Floor Auditorium)

Class Speaker finalists will need to present their remarks in person to the selection committee and other special guests.

The selected Class Speaker will be notified on Friday, May 3.

Class Speaker Tips and Helpful Hints

Each year we hold a class speaker competition and each year we hear feedback from the selection committee about students’ submissions. The information below may help guide you through the writing process.

Theme and Content

  • Think about what you would want to hear as a member of the audience. You may want to share your aspirations and convictions, passions or goals.

  • Strong speeches have strong themes. Try to maintain a consistent theme throughout your speech and hold your audience’s interest with specific examples and anecdotes.

  • Remember, the audience is comprised of students, faculty, families, friends, distinguished alumni, and guests. The speech should have some elements to which everyone can relate.


There is not a specific template or format to which speeches must adhere, but there are some general structures that most commencement speeches follow.

  • Speeches often begin with a brief welcome or greeting and mention of specific guests, such as Dean Fried, the invited speaker(s), and a general welcome to other audience members.

  • As this is the Mailman School of Public Health’s commencement ceremony, the speech should be relevant to the field of public health and address topics or issues in the field. If the topics covered are complicated issues, they should be explained to the general audience in a story or brief review.

  • The speech will often have a charge to the class. This charge is a challenge or motivating factor, presented to the class during the speech, sometimes given as a closing. Often the charge is a goal to make changes, yet it can also be to stay the course and persevere.

  • A seven-minute speech runs approximately 500-700 words depending on speaking speed. Please time yourself prior to submitting your draft.

Submit your Remarks