Commencement is one of the happiest days of the year for Georgia Tech graduates. For the students selected as reflection speakers, it presents a unique opportunity to address their fellow graduates, professors, and family members.
At each of Georgia Tech’s Fall Commencement ceremonies (bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D.), a graduating student is given three minutes to deliver an inspiring message. The bachelor’s speaker is Lama Bahanan, a biomedical engineering major. The master’s speaker is Aayushi Mody, an architecture major. And the Ph.D. speaker is Dakshitha Anandakumar, also a biomedical engineering major.
Students must apply to become a reflection speaker. A panel of faculty, staff, and students selects the finalists, who present a full version of their speech to the committee. Those selected as reflection speakers are required to work with Tech’s Communication Center in preparation for the ceremony.
Lama Bahanan has always enjoyed public speaking, and she did it often back home in Saudi Arabia. At Tech her speaking opportunities were mostly in her classes, but now she has the ultimate speaking opportunity at Commencement.
“I truly believe that the Tech community is like no other,” she said. “Whatever problem you may have, there is always a source to support you.” That’s why she co-founded the Saudi Student Association, to help students like her feel more comfortable and to encourage them to meet new people from different countries.
After graduating she will return to Saudi Arabia, where she will be an associate consultant with Strategy & PwC in Riyadh. She’s also looking forward to being near her family again.
“I really miss my family,” she said. “My mom encouraged me to be independent and do things on my own. My dad encouraged me to be curious and to try new experiences. I owe everything in my life to them.”
Bahanan’s parents and older brother will celebrate Commencement with her.
From the start, Dakshitha Anandakumar knew the Georgia Tech community would be the theme of her reflection speech.
“The community empowered me to be brave and chase opportunities without being tied down by social norms,” she said. “I have been fortunate to have met some of the most inspiring people here through campus organizations and classes who have all been champions for diversity, equity, and inclusion. I am sure several others in the graduating cohort share similar experiences, and through my speech I want to encourage them to continue working for the betterment of the community.”
Anandakumar said the last couple of years of graduate school have passed quickly and working on the reflection speech gave her the opportunity to look back at her journey.
“It was a good reminder that tough times don’t last but tough people do,” she said.
Anandakumar is from Bashettyhalli, a village in Karnataka, a southern state of India. Her parents will travel to Atlanta, for the first time, to celebrate Commencement with her.
“I cannot wait to see how proud they will be to watch me give the reflection speech,” she said. “My parents have sacrificed so much so that I could study here. I hope watching me graduate will make them feel that it was all worth it.”
After graduating she will work as a research scientist at SiriusXM. In her free time, she plans to be a volunteer teacher at NGOs in India.