Commencement Speaker Selection
Commencement is a beginning and an end. It’s the last step in the academic journey that students and faculty have taken together, and it’s the starting point of our graduates’ post-Ohio State lives. It unites the entire Ohio State community in celebrating academic accomplishment.
Take an active role in this proud tradition. Your help is needed to identify Commencement speakers who can inspire graduates, their families, our faculty, and other guests.
Process and Criteria
The committee is asked to actively engage the university community to seek suggestions/nominations for Commencement speakers. Nominations will be made through the university's Commencement speaker nomination portal, which is always open. All members of the Ohio State community are encouraged to make nominations. Only candidates nominated through this portal will be considered for Commencement speaker.
Once a slate of candidates is identified by the committee of the whole, a subcommittee comprised of the three students and three faculty will work collaboratively to develop a prioritized slate of recommended candidates for each Commencement.
This slate will then be shared with the Executive Vice President and Provost who in turn will deliver this recommendation to the President for approval. Upon approval, the Office of Academic Affairs will work with the Office of Special Events and Commencement to secure the Commencement speakers in a timely manner.
Given the importance of the May Commencement as a major event for the university, the committee will seek to identify a slate of speakers of national or international stature befitting a ceremony celebrating 10,000+ graduates. A faculty member is generally chosen to speak at one Commencement ceremony each year, and an alumnus/donor/business leader is chosen for another. Potential speakers should be or have the following qualities:
- A good public speaker
- In a position to deliver a meaningful message with relevance for our graduating students
- A leader in her or his field or linked to important and compelling issues
- Name recognition (especially for May Commencement)
- Core values consistent with those of Ohio State’s mission, vision and values
Honorary degrees may be offered to certain speakers, depending upon their prominence in their field, among other factors. The honorary degree process is generally a separate one, but can intersect when inviting select dignitaries as speakers following University Faculty Rules (rule 3335-5-41 of the Administrative Code).
The Commencement Speaker Advisory Committee is charged with developing a recommended slate of potential speakers for the December, May, and August Commencement ceremonies.
The committee is convened by a Vice Provost and comprised of a number of representatives selected by organizations from around the university community, including:
- Three students serving one-year terms, selected by Undergraduate Student Government (1), Council of Graduate Students (1), and Inter-Professional Council (1)
- Six faculty, representing University Senate (1; 3-year term), Honorary Degrees Committee (1; 2-year term), at-large selected by the Provost (3; 1-, 2-, and 3-year terms), non-tenure track selected by the Provost (1; 1-3 year term)
- Four staff, representing the Office of Commencement and Special Events (1; permanent), Office of Student Life (1; 1-3 year term), Office of Advancement (1; 2-year terms), at large selected by the Provost (1; 3-year term)
- One university administrator representing the Office of the President, ex officio