Senior Orations

We are proud of our majors who were among the selected senior orators in 2013 and 2014.

Melvin Washington III read “Who Is Wake Forest?” at the Founders’ Day Convocation 2014 and, as the winner of the oration, at the 2014 Honors Convocation.

Melvin Washington ('14)
On the first floor of Carswell Hall; just before the Annenburg auditorium; there is a quote that goes sporadically noticed and seldom explored by the average student rushing to class. It is credited to Wake alumnus Ed Wilson and reads, “Long before we played football, edited publications, acted, or sang – in fact, almost before we studied, we of Wake Forest talked.” And talked we have. Read more »

Joshua Courtney presented “Our Actions, Ourselves” at the Founders’ Day Convocation 2013.

Josh Courtney ('13)
“I subconsciously observed this Wake Forest society in comparison with my old society, and we can call this a culture shock. However, one thing I noticed from the people here that strikes me the most remarkable is that everyone here walks with confidence. It was not until I arrived here then I realized that I often walked with my head down. Indeed, if I did not learn anything else from this university, it is confidence that I have gained.” Read more »

Major: Politics

Minors: International Affairs

Hometown: Chesterfield, Va.

Kimberly_Quick-140x140 (1)After graduation, Kimberly will serve as a Wake Forest Fellow in the Office of the Provost. “I am so excited about the opportunity to use the skills and passions that Wake Forest has instilled in me to give back to the university,” says Kimberly. After completing the fellowship, Kimberly plans to attend law school.

Q: What is the most dramatic change you’ve undergone during your undergraduate studies?

A: When I arrived on campus as a first-year, I was interested in gaining the knowledge necessary for a successful career. I wanted to be told every fact, read long standing theories, and learn storied facts and figures to back up the points I wanted to prove. Wake Forest has made me more passionate about creating knowledge than memorizing facts. I hope that during my time at Wake Forest I have become more intellectually creative and more willing to take academic risks. I am now comfortable with acknowledging that I do not know everything, but that the journey of discovering new truths and posing new questions is a lifetime process that is about more than finding a good job or getting into the best graduate program.

Q: Describe your study abroad experiences.  

A: I had the great opportunity to study abroad twice. I spent the summer after my first-year in Accra, Ghana, taking an African studies course and doing service at a local NGO. In Ghana, I became increasingly aware of my own privilege – specifically, my own misguided propensity to try to find satisfaction through “things.” Unable to use a cell phone or the internet whenever I wanted, I was forced to plug-in to an unfamiliar environment and learn from the people and settings around me. The children in the classroom where I volunteered were my most influential teachers. Their joy for learning, exuberance, and love of others transcended their circumstances of poverty. I became more thankful for my blessings, and thirstier for spiritual and social advancement rather than material consumption.

My second study abroad experience was at the Worrell House in London, England, in the spring of 2012. London is an incredibly diverse and exciting city full of a rich history, appreciation for the arts, interesting politics and people from all corners of the world. I remember exploring the city with wonder, relishing in my increased independence and willingness to venture out alone to various corners of the city. But most important to me was the equal joy I had every time I arrived back “home” at the Worrell House; full of stories and pictures to exchange with my makeshift family. Between late night discussions in the house study, random dance parties in the kitchen or family potluck dinners spread out across our classroom table, I gained some of my best memories and closest friends during that semester.

Q: What extracurricular activity did you enjoy most and why?

A: Originally attracted to the music and costumes, I signed up for ballroom dance at the activities fair my first-year. I had ballet experience, but zero experience with social dance. The first practice made it clear that ballet and the cha-cha have very little in common. My inner perfectionist quickly became frustrated, and I honestly thought that this club might not be for me. Thankfully, the upperclassmen in the club encouraged me to return, and soon I realized that the purpose of joining the club was not to become a professional ballroom dancer, but to meet people and have fun. Once I opened myself up to trying something new and being in the moment, I met great friends and upperclassmen mentors, came out of my shell and even won some ribbons at competitions!

Q: Who were your mentors? Your biggest cheerleaders?

A: I have been blessed with wonderful professors and mentors at Wake Forest, each of whom have taught me important skills and provided me with great insights. Since my first class with Katy Harriger, department chair of the politics and international affairs department, she has seen potential in me that I often do not see in myself. Her guidance, confidence and support has opened up numerous doors for me both at Wake Forest and beyond. As a professor, she has challenged me academically in each of her classes, refusing to settle for mediocrity and encouraging me to stretch myself intellectually. Her mentorship has made me more self-aware, more willing to seize opportunities and better equipped for life as a Wake Forest graduate.

Q: What shared values do you feel unite the Wake Forest community? 

A: I am so happy to be graduating from Wake Forest with a sense of community. We may not believe the same things or even frequents the same spaces, but Wake Forest is a place where integrity always triumphs over cut-throat competition and where concern for others supersedes selfishness. Together, Wake Forest students, faculty and staff seek to create an environment where everyone is respected, where everyone has a chance to thrive, and where the motto of Pro Humanitate indicates an institution striving toward a common goal of improving the world.

Q: What is the best advice you can give an incoming first-year student?

A: Take classes in subjects you have never heard of. Sit at a table with strangers. Talk to the person standing next to you in line. Ask questions of your classmates. Take the classmate you disagree with out to lunch. See the plays; go to the art shows; attend the cultural festivals. College is a time to expand yourself, and to become the person you want to be. If you are never challenged, nervous or uncomfortable, you aren’t doing it right. Curiosity, not certainty, is the tool of the well-educated. The results of reasonable risk-taking will enrich your experiences, make you a more interested and open minded person, and introduce you to your calling outside of Wake Forest.

Q: Where is the one place on campus you will miss most and why? 

A: To me, the upper quad is the heart of campus. On a sunny day, the quad becomes an example of what is best about Wake Forest. Students of different clubs, classes and interests converge on the grass to play Frisbee, rollerblade, picnic or play music. It becomes an impromptu meeting place for old friends, with whom I’ve frequently shared hour-long, unplanned conversations with that then migrate from the brick walkways to a bench or to Subway. The upper quad was the first place I visited as a prospective student touring the university, and will soon be the place where I transition from a Wake Forest undergraduate to an alumna.

Clinton Global Initiative 2014: Yasin Ahmed Ismail

In March, I attended the 7th Annual Clinton Global Initiative-University meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. YasinThe annual meeting, which was hosted by President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton brought together more than 1000 innovative student leaders from all over the world. In addition to the Clinton family, I was able to hear and interact with other speakers such as Jimmy Kimmel; Senator John McCain; Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia; Premal Shah, President of Kiva; Maria Elena Salina, Anchor of Univision News and many others. During the meeting, I was also recognized on stage for my Commitment to Action, Somali Diaspora Corps, by Lauryn Williams, a 3 time American Olympic Medalist.

ACC Conference 2014: Alex Buchholz

BuchholzIn April, I had the pleasure of attending the 4th annual ACC Meetings of the Minds hosted at the University of Pittsburgh. The undergraduate conference brings together 8-10 students from each school in the ACC to present their academic research. As one of Wake Forest’s representatives, I had the opportunity to showcase my Richter research on the geopolitical “great game” Russia and the United States have played over oil and natural gas reserves in the Caspian Sea Basin.

Over a two day period, I enjoyed meeting with other student-researchers and learning about their compelling work. The projects covered a wide range of subjects, from history and linguistics to the hard sciences.  At night, we were fortunate to hear from several distinguished speakers and visit the Andy Warhol Museum in Downtown Pittsburg. By the end of the experience, I found myself impressed by the work of my peers and the ACC’s continued commitment to undergraduate research.


I’m a big believer that student’s should engage in undergraduate research during their time in school. Going forward, I’m excited to see the future iterations of the ACC Meeting of the Minds and I strongly encourage students of the Department of Politics and International Affairs to take part in this fantastic program.

Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress 2014: Kimberly Quick

My experience as a Presidential Fellow with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress was extremely eye opening and rewarding for me. The Center, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit research and education organization, encourages current political leaders to make informed and effective policy decisions irrespective of partisan associations. My experiences with both the speakers in the Fall and Spring conferences Kimberly_Quick-140x140 (1)and with the 70+ fellows gave me hope that our political future can reflect the ideals of the Center. The intelligence, passion, inquisitiveness, and kindness of my peer fellows were the highlights of both conferences with the CSPC. 

In addition to the wonderful speakers during the conference (including Senators Susan Rice and Joe Manchin) the CSPC introduced fellows to the process of workshopping papers for publication and provided each fellow with a mentor who was knowledgeable of that fellow’s paper topic. My topic–Congressional amelioration or complication of jurisdictional questions in “Indian Country”–became increasingly interesting as my mentors and conference small group challenged me to expand my analysis and ask deeper questions. Through my experiences, I have made meaningful connections, gained a deeper understanding of the workings of the federal government, and heard the many perspectives of a diverse and insightful group of future leaders. I will take wonderful memories from my time in the Nation’s capital and at the CSPC. Thank you to the Department of Politics and International Affairs for granting me this opportunity!

Naval Academy 2014: Emily Anderson

I attended the 54th Annual Naval Academy Foreign Affairs conference in April. The themeAndersonNaval of this year’s conference was “Human Security in the Information Age,” so we listened to panels about “The Dark Side of the Information Age,” with speakers like the president of the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. That was horrifying – there are truly awful things happening on the internet and I had no idea! There was also a panel called “Political Action in the Information Age,” with the Estonian Ambassador to the US and a managing editor from the Wall Street Journal. We got to hear incredible speakers, including Former President Bill Clinton, and former director of NSA, Michael Hayden. In my roundtable, which was called “The Fading Line Between Man and Machine,” we talked about the latest technology in robotics, and 3D printing, and what these mean for the future of the human race. We talked about technology in warfare and manufacturing, and the ethical dilemmas that are associated with the new technologies. The conference really stresses International Affairs – so many students from other countries were attending. In my roundtable, there were students from South Korea, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Japan. In other roundtables, students represented Italy, the UK, and Mexico. Overall, I had a really great time and met a lot of great people! So thanks to the Department for sending me!

West Point Academy 2014: Akina Anand

West Point PictureThis past fall I had the privilege of attending the 65th Student Conference on US Affairs (SCUSA 65), hosted by West Point Military Academy. This year’s theme was demographics and population change, and I participated in a round table discussion that focused on these factors as sources of instability in the Middle East.  We discussed these issues in the frame of the youth population bulge in the Middle East, and in the end, we drafted a white paper on our recommendations for US foreign policy.

Outside of my round table discussion, I also attended panel discussions by experts in various fields of foreign policy, a keynote address from Brent Scowcroft, and a weapons demonstration by West Point cadets.  Aside from these formal proceedings, I was also fortunate to interact with many cadets on a more personal level.  I stayed in the barracks with cadets where I was able to experience morning formation at 6 AM, along with many stories about their lives as both students and soldiers.  This conference was an amazing experience, and I am truly fortunate to have been chosen.

Fulbright Scholar 2014

Meenu Krishnan

MeenuNext year, I will be moving to Spain on a Fulbright scholarship to research the extent of social, political, and economic integration of the Roma in urban contexts with relation to the governmental mechanisms and media representations that shape this process. I will be based in four cities throughout my Fulbright year – Sevilla, Granada, Madrid, and Barcelona – and I plan on incorporating interviews, surveys, and analysis of both mass media and legislation into my research. Following my Fulbright year, I will move back to the States to attend Yale Law School.


Bridger Mahlum

Bridger Mahlum won the Carl Moses Excellence in Research Award for his senior paper  ​”Redistricting and Competitive Elections: A Comparative Case Study.” He will be heading to Alaska in June as an campaign consultant for the U. S. Senate Election ​in that state​. While there, Bridger thought he would check into the rumor about there being “Gold in them thar hills….”


Kelly Flanigan

The 2014 winner of the Jack D. Fleer Award for Excellence in Honors was Kelly Flanigan. Her thesis was entitled: “The Odd One Out. Analysis of the Impact of Campaign- and Electorate-Specific Factors on Non-Major Party Performance in U.S. Elections.”  She has accepted a position doing consulting work with non-profit organizations after graduation. Kelly hopes to attend graduate school for a master’s degree related to either Public Policy or International Affairs in the future.

Emily Anderson and Kimberly Quick

Emily Emily Anderson and Kimberly Quick won the C.H. Richards Award for Excellence in Politics and International Affairs. Emily is looking forward to her work  as an Admissions Counselor at the Wake Forest Office of Undergraduate Admissions for the next two years!

Kimberly is excited to serve as the Wake Forest Fellow in the Office of the Provost for the 2014-2015 term. After completing the fellowship, she hopes to continue her education in law school.