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James Madison Commencement welcomes alumna as keynote speaker

May 4, 2023 - Beth Brauer

graphic of pixelated spartan helmet with grad cap

Commencement ceremonies for Michigan State University’s 17 different colleges begin this weekend with the first undergraduate programs scheduled for Friday, May 5. James Madison College will celebrate its commencement at Wharton Center at 12:30 p.m., Saturday, May 6.  

Among those graduating, Caitlin Finerty, who is earning her degree in social relations and policy in JMC and public relations in the College of Communication Arts and Letters, is relieved the two ceremonies do not overlap as both fields of study mean a great deal to her.

“I love the decision I made to get a dual degree outside of the college because it gives me the opportunity to see every possible option for career paths with my interests. Now that I know I want to write and create professionally, my second program in public relations gives me the hard skills and specific experience I need while James Madison still gave me opportunities to pursue my intellectual curiosities,” Finerty said. 

Convocation for students earning Baccalaureate degrees is scheduled for 1 p.m., May 5 at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Ceremonies for more than 9,500 students will be livestreamed, and a schedule can be found on the MSU Commencement page.

Of the total 6,978 undergraduate degree candidates, James Madison College will confer degrees of 208 students this spring and summer.

infographic of JMC graduates 

Featured speakers include JMC alumna Yvette Efevbera (IR ‘09), who has served as an adviser for Gender Equality with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is a board member for Global Health Corps.

“I’m beyond honored to be invited as this year’s keynote speaker for the James Madison College commencement ceremony. The JMC community has always meant a lot to me, so it's exciting to return to my alma mater and give back in this way,” Efevbera said.

Efevbera earned a Doctor of Science in Population and Reproductive Health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as well as a Master of Science in Global Health from Harvard University. She is a research scholar and activist specializing in adolescents, youth and gender; cultural sensitivity and diversity, equity and inclusion; and qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research.

Yvette Efevbera headshot
Yvette Efevbera (IR '09) is the 2023 JMC Commencement keynote speaker.

“My speech is about riding the waves of transition,” said Efevbera. “I’ll share four lessons from points of transition in my own journey that I hope will inspire this class of JMC graduates as they start on their next chapters.”

JMC’s spring 2023 student commencement speaker is Ian Earle (PTCD ’23). Earle was selected by a committee consisting of faculty, staff and peers.

“Ian’s impact on the college and MSU will live on long after he graduates. Always among the first to volunteer to represent the college and find ways to bring about meaningful change, Ian is a true asset to JMC,” said Jeff Judge, assistant dean.

JMC Senior Ellie Bennett (IR ’23) was part of the student commencement speaker selection committee. “Ian has been so involved during his four years, and his speech was one that we as a group were able to relate to most,” said Bennett. “We as a class have been through a lot, but we wanted to be reminded that despite everything, we have so many great memories.”

Earle decided to audition for the coveted spot because he felt he could “capture the Madisonian spirit unique to the class of 2023.” Earle, who plans to spend his summer in East Lansing looking for jobs in the fields of education and government (and improve his golf game) said, “I have been able to get to know and befriend many members of my graduating class. The class of 2023 is driven and resilient, and I want to capture that.”

For the safety of attendees, no bags or purses will be allowed in Breslin Center, Wharton Center and MSU Auditorium for commencement ceremonies. Cameras and camcorders are permitted, but cases are prohibited. No food or beverages — including bottled water — will be allowed and this applies to graduates, guests and faculty.

For more information about spring commencement, visit the Michigan State University Commencement website.