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James Madison’s graduating class celebrates commencement, welcomes Rep. Elissa Slotkin

May 6, 2022 - Beth Brauer

Michigan State University graduates have more to celebrate during this year’s spring commencement as it marks the first spring ceremony in two years without significant pandemic-related restrictions.

James Madison College’s Emma LaRocca (SRP ’22) will be graduating and participating in JMC’s spring commencement on Saturday, May 6 at the Wharton Center. “I think it is important for graduates to have that final moment with the people they’ve spent the last four years with,” said LaRocca, “Having the physical celebration is a way to honor all that we’ve accomplished.”

Madison student Kacey Collins (SRP ’22) is also looking forward to marking this milestone that she achieved a year earlier than most. “It feels surreal, I just got here three years ago and I’m now leaving. I’m excited to embark on a new journey with the tools I picked up [in Madison],” Collins said.

The university will host ceremonies for 9,601 students this weekend at Jack Breslin Student Events Center, Wharton Center for Performing Arts and the MSU Auditorium. Most individual colleges will host their own commencement ceremonies May 6-8. A schedule can be found on the commencement website. All ceremonies will be livestreamed. 

Of the total 6,917 undergraduate degree candidates, James Madison College will confer the degrees of 204 students this spring and an anticipated 32 students following the summer sessions.


Featured speakers include U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who serves Michigan’s 8th District, which includes the MSU campus. Prior to her service in Congress, Rep. Slotkin worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a Middle East analyst. In her role at the CIA, Rep. Slotkin worked alongside the U.S. military during three tours in Iraq as a militia expert. Between her tours, Rep. Slotkin held various defense and intelligence positions under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, including roles at the White House and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

 JMC’s spring student commencement speaker is myrah rafiah beverly (CCP ’22), who also will be awarded one of the Outstanding Senior awards for Comparative Cultures and Politics. beverly was selected by a committee consisting of faculty, staff and her peers. Students wishing to be considered must submit a draft speech prior to spring break and audition in person.

“myrah is an individual who captures the essence of our class. Like many students, myrah has endured many hardships in life but, throughout it all, she continues to strive and persevere.

myrah reminds her fellow colleagues, residents and friends that it's important to love yourself, embrace your voice and to go beyond the bounds,” said David Tran (IR ’22), one of the student representatives on the speaker selection committee.

To be selected as the speaker is an honor beverly has long sought, as she had thought about applying to be the speaker for her high school graduation ceremony but decided against it. This time around, beverly did not want to miss the opportunity.

“I have a lot to say, and I’ve always wanted to be in a position to express these ideas to a wider audience. I think we all need to hear this. We went through a lot with the pandemic,” said beverly, “My speech is something that I think is more relatable and centers on the well-being of others.”

myrah beverly standing in front of Beaumont Tower
myrah beverly is JMC's student commencement speaker. Photo by Tamara Siblani


Principal to beverly’s message is the importance of self-care and “caring for communities that come before you, like Indigenous communities,” she said.

Following this year’s commencement, beverly will spend part of her summer doing research in Cambodia with the Mekong Culture WELL, a project led by an interdisciplinary team of MSU faculty, staff and students working to foster environmental justice in Southeast Asia. The project is funded by the Henry Luce Foundation’s Initiative on Southeast Asia, or LuceSEA.

“I will be working with Indigenous communities, using art as a medium for storytelling. There will be a lot of listening… how Indigenous communities want their stories to be told,” said beverly. 

From Cambodia, beverly will travel to Singapore and Malaysia to learn more about her own background and heritage.

“Through MSU Film Lab, I will have equipment to document this two-month trip. Hopefully, with that documentation, I can give it to Mekong Culture WELL [as I try] to discover my past,” beverly said. 

When asked about her plans beyond the summer, beverly said, “What I am going to do after college is my best. If I have it my way, I will be living in Malaysia doing environmental justice and community work.”

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.