After conflict and confusion regarding who will speak at commencement, the matter has been settled. Due to illness, the initial speaker, Jeffrey R. Holland, will not attend the event. Instead, three graduating Southern Utah University students will fill the time.
The new speakers are Sarah Penner, Kalli Ostermiller and Aspen English. Each highly qualified in their respective fields, the individuals will present a variety of perspectives in their speeches.
Penner will graduate with a degree in psychology and a double minor in German and theatre arts. She’s been heavily involved at the Writing Center on campus for the last four years and participated in a couple campus productions during her time here. One of her favorite experiences was studying abroad in Vienna, Austria, for the spring 2022 semester.
With plans to pursue a master’s degree and a career in international disaster psychology and mental health counseling, Penner’s educational journey is far from over.
“My speech focuses primarily on resilience — how SUU has helped us develop it, and how we’re going to need it in our futures,” Penner said.
Ostermiller is majoring in political science and minoring in philosophy. While at SUU, she has worked at the Student Body Fitness Center, served on the executive council for the Leavitt Center and interned for the Utah Speaker of the House.
Many influential SUU professors have inspired Ostermiller to further her education at law school. In her future, she hopes to utilize her law degree, passion for politics, education and life privileges to help serve minoritized communities.
“My commencement speech is centered around vulnerability and authenticity,” Ostermiller said. “The most beautiful society I can imagine is one where people feel safe to be vulnerable and share their lived experiences and where people are not only allowed but encouraged to express their identities in the most authentic way possible.”
English is majoring in English and communication and is valedictorian of SUU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She has been named the Outstanding Communication Student as well as the Top Rhetoric & Writing Student in the Department of English. During her four years at SUU, English has been involved in multiple campus organizations, including Student Involvement and Leadership and SUU News.
Having accepted a job at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce upon her graduation, English is looking forward to continuing to use her writing skills in the professional field.
“Working as editor-in-chief for SUU News has given me the opportunity to learn so much about the student experience on our campus,” English said. “My speech focuses on how much we change and grow during college.”
The commencement ceremony will begin at 8 a.m. on April 28 with the commencement procession, where graduates will walk from the Bell Tower to the America First Event Center. The program will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will include remarks from the three student speakers, President Mindy Benson, honorary degree recipient Joan Woodbury and the university’s national alumni council president Caytee Wankier. Individual College Degree Convocations will begin at 10:30 a.m. More information on the ceremony can be found here.
Story by: Kale Nelson
Photos courtesy of Sarah Penner, Kalli Ostermiller and Aspen English