Senior Orations and the Senior Colloquium

Wake Forest University has been honoring senior orators since 1835. This remarkable tradition elevates the importance of thoughtful public discourse within the University community and beyond.

The selection process for senior orations begins in the fall, when faculty are asked to nominate graduating seniors who they believe have exceptional promise. Nominated students are asked to write a one thousand word, critical reflection on their educational experiences. A panel of faculty reads these narratives and chooses the ten manuscripts that they deem most powerful.

Faculty, Deans, representatives from the Administration, friends, family, and these ten students will gather together on campus in February for the Senior Colloquium, where all ten orations will be heard.  A separate faculty panel, present at the Colloquium, will choose the top three of the ten orations, including the overall winner. The three finalists will be recognized and the top orator will present their oration at Founders Day Convocation in February, as well as at the Honors and Awards and Commencement Ceremonies in May.

Congratulations to Participants of the 2023 Senior Colloquium!

Winners – Kaitlyn Fox, Lillian Giles, and Cameron Michles

Honorable Mentions – Zacary Contreras, Oryann Addison, Rachel Edwards, Maddie Faris, Dana Jonson, Elizabeth MacDonald, and Sebastian Pauli-Rivas

Picture of 13 participants in the 2023 Senior Colloquium on stage with a black curtain background
Participants of the 2023 pictured on stage at the Senior Colloquium on Feb 1, 2023. Left to right: Interim Dean of the College Anthony Marsh, Interim Associate Dean of Faculty Monique O’Connell, Rachel Edwards, Zacary Contreras, Cameron Michles, Kaitlyn Fox, Maddie Faria, Oryann Addison, Elizabeth MacDonald, Lillian Giles, Dana Johnson, Sebastian Pauli-Rivas, and Provost Michele Gillespie.
Full video of the 2023 Senior Colloquium held on February 1, 2023.

2023-2024 Important Dates

Sept 11, 2023 – 1st call for student nominations (Nomination Guidelines for faculty) in Faculty Meeting

Nov. 13, 2023 – Deadline for Faculty to submit Student Nominations

Nov. 21, 2023 – Congratulations sent to Nominated Students

Jan. 10, 2024 – Student Submission Deadline (2024 Student Guidelines)

Senior Colloquium – February 7, 2024, 5pm in Pugh Auditorium. 2024 Event Livestream | 2024 Program

Feb. 15, 2024 – Winner presents at Founder’s Day Convocation

May 19, 2024– Winner presents at Honors & Awards Ceremony

Past Winners and Events

YearWinner's NameTitle of OrationHonorable MentionsFull Colloquium Video
2023Kaitlyn FoxThrough My Lens9 OrationsLink
2022Bea PearsonSeized at the Root9 OrationsLink
2021Julianne ZhuHeart of a Child9 OrationsLink
2020Celia ZhouLiving and Loving the Questions9 OrationsNot Available
2019Anna Grace GuercioDangerous Speech9 OrationsNot Available
2018Allison ThompsonLife Doesn’t Frighten Me9 OrationsNot Available
2017Cameron SilvergateI Hope You Dance9 OrationsNot Available
2016Aishwarya NagarThe Unexpected Chaos of Life as a Deac9 OrationsNot Available
2015Sarah VansickleWhat We Create in the Mind9 OrationsNot Available
2014Melvin Washington IIIWho Is Wake Forest9 OrationsNot Available
2013Xinxin ZhangThe Confessions of a Show Dog9 OrationsNot Available
2012Brandon TurnerEasy As Pi9 OrationsNot Available
2011Ava PetrashTo Understand the World…9 OrationsNot Available
2010Zahir RahmanWe Are Wake ForestNot Available

For full videos of the following events, please click: Founder’s Day Convocation and Commencement.

Did you present an oration at a past Colloquium event and don’t see it here? A project to collect past orations is underway – check back. Have a past oration to submit? Contact us and let us know!


In their book, Milestones – Defining Lists of Wake Forest Debate 1835-2022, Allen Louden and Jarrod Atchison describe, in detail, the history of Debate and Oration at Wake.

“Over a century and half, four primary settings dominated this influential Wake public voice. Faculty-required Senior Orations initially dominated, followed closely and often in tandem with Commencement Senior Orators. For multiple decades, before hosting responsibilities became too burdensome, public oratory was under the full purview of the literary societies.” “These special occasions were the featured intellectual and social events of the fall and spring season, inviting alumni and the State’s elite (as well as women from Meredith and Oxford) to the campus for oratories, debates, and celebration.”  If you would like to read more, including the full historical list of Orators and their speeches, the book is available from Library Partners Press, and can be seen in ZSR here.