Commencement 2012: Spotlight on student speakers
By Katie Ellis
One graduate student was chosen to speak at the Graduate Commencement ceremony on May 19, and three undergraduate students were selected to speak at the undergraduate ceremonies on May 20, in the Events Center.
Jennifer Tomas spoke at the Graduate ceremony. Benjamin Summers, Michelle Eberhart and Janathri Nanayakkara spoke at the Harpur College morning ceremony, professional schools ceremony and Harpur College afternoon ceremony, respectively.
Tomas, a former high school social studies teacher who graduated with her doctorate in history, earned her bachelor's degree in history from Wells College. She came to Binghamton University to earn her master's degree in history as part of New York state's teacher certification requirements. "I fell in love with the History Department," she said, and stayed for her doctorate. She has taught at Binghamton and SUNY Oneonta, and served as a reviewer for the Journal of Women's History and for Women and Social Movements in the United States.
Tomas will be working to pull an article or two from her dissertation —"The Women's History Movement in the United States: Professional and Political Roots of the Field, 1922-1987" – for publication, and teach women's and gender history on campus for the next academic year.
"Binghamton students at both the undergraduate and graduate level have made my years studying and teaching here very engaging," she said. "They are really top-notch for the most part and who you're sitting next to in a seminar can add so much to your education. I feel a little humbled to be speaking before so many talented, smart people."
Nanayakkara, a double major in economics and in political science with a concentration in global and international affairs, is an international student from Sri Lanka. Originally enrolled at the University of Maine, she transferred to Binghamton where she said the environment "eased me into a new culture."
While at Binghamton, she was an orientation advisor and a student-scholar assistant in the Office of International Student and Scholar Affairs. She has held leadership positions, including vice president, for Phi Alpha Delta Professional Pre-law Fraternity, and has served as a choreographer for Children's Dance Theatre and as a peer mentor.
Nanayakkara has provided freelance translation services for Legal Interpreting Services in New York City, translating documents for the National Labor Relations Board. She spent one summer as an intern in the legal department for Law and Society Trust in Sri Lanka, and another as a General Assembly Intern with the United Nations. She will soon begin her "dream job," starting her career in a position at the United Nations.
Eberhart, who earned dual degrees in human development and English, competed as a long- and triple-jumper on the Binghamton University track and field team, which she co-captained.
A master of time management who has "crammed 156 credits into [her] four years here at Binghamton," including 22 credits this semester alone, was also secretary for the safety awareness group Peace OUTside Campus, a College for Every Student peer mentor at Binghamton West Middle School and an intern in the University's media and public relations office.
Eberhart helped develop a new Web video series "This Week@BinghamtonU" for the University and is also adept at blogging and using online tools to promote organizations. She plans on finding a job in public relations and social media. "As an intern for Binghamton's media and public relations office, I wish to use the skills I have learned here and apply them to my future career," she said. "I believe that social media is an up-and-coming field that has become a necessity for businesses, non-profits and individuals alike.
"I love everything about Binghamton and...have been reminiscing about my first days in CIW up until the current moments that I know will be memories forever," she said. "While it is sad to leave Binghamton, I know that being here has prepared me to go on and succeed at whatever I wish to do."
Summers, a history major, came to Binghamton after taking a "gap year off" following his high school graduation to participate in an international program called Kivunim: New Directions. He earned college credit during the program, which involved trips to several countries including Morocco and India, from a base in Jerusalem, Israel. The program's focus is for participants to gain an understanding of other cultures, religions and worldviews in order to develop "world-consciousness" while enhancing and enriching their Jewish identity.
On campus, Summers was heavily involved in both the Hillel and Chabad communities, and spent four years as a member of Kaskeset, Binghamton University's only all-Jewish a cappella group, including one year as president. He has also worked in the Public Speaking Laboratory in the Chenango Champlain Collegiate Center.
Summers will relocate to Atlanta, "pursuing my passion in conflict resolution from there, and after a few years of working, I'll pick a new city and start a new adventure there," he said. "It's a very loose plan, but the way I want to spend my time is not just earning money, but also learning skills."
"It's all sinking in slowly," he said. "I'm unlike a lot of friends who have their careers planned out, but I'm OK with that. It's a really exciting time to be me."