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
2023-2024 Important Dates
Sept 19, 2023 – 1st call for student nominations (Nomination Guidelines for faculty)
Nov. 7, 2023 – Deadline for Faculty to submit Student Nominations
Nov. 14, 2023 – Congratulations sent to Nominated Students
Jan. 5, 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
|Year||Winner's Name||Title of Oration||Honorable Mentions||Full Colloquium Video|
|2023||Kaitlyn Fox||Through My Lens||9 Orations||Link|
|2022||Bea Pearson||Seized at the Root||9 Orations||Link|
|2021||Julianne Zhu||Heart of a Child||9 Orations||Link|
|2020||Celia Zhou||Living and Loving the Questions||9 Orations||Not Available|
|2019||Anna Grace Guercio||Dangerous Speech||9 Orations||Not Available|
|2018||Allison Thompson||Life Doesn’t Frighten Me||9 Orations||Not Available|
|2017||Cameron Silvergate||I Hope You Dance||9 Orations||Not Available|
|2016||Aishwarya Nagar||The Unexpected Chaos of Life as a Deac||9 Orations||Not Available|
|2015||Sarah Vansickle||What We Create in the Mind||9 Orations||Not Available|
|2014||Melvin Washington III||Who Is Wake Forest||9 Orations||Not Available|
|2013||Xinxin Zhang||The Confessions of a Show Dog||9 Orations||Not Available|
|2012||Brandon Turner||Easy As Pi||9 Orations||Not Available|
|2011||Ava Petrash||To Understand the World…||9 Orations||Not Available|
|2010||Zahir Rahman||We Are Wake Forest||Not 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.