Each semester, the Student Commencement Speaker Advisory Committee is tasked with selecting an exemplary graduating UAA student for the student commencement speaker. The spring 2016 commencement speaker is Jonathon Taylor, president of USUAA and political science major, with minors in economics, communications and journalism.
Taylor has been a deeply involved student at UAA. His hard work and achievements even got him the attention of UAA advancement. Taylor was part of advancement’s Amazing Stories series, a segment where students from UAA that have inspiring stories are featured. Taylor’s Amazing Stories video reached over 29,000 views. In the video, Taylor talks about getting involved at UAA.
Taylor was elected last spring as the USUAA President, alongside Matthieu Ostrander as the Vice President. Taylor said that one of their goals was to have students become more engaged at UAA. Taylor believes that the surge in active student voices came from social media, changing their internal structure of how USUAA engages with students or a combination of both. He believes that the voices of students is critical, especially going into next year and the concerning budget and financial issues at UAA.
Taylor is happy to have been the voice for students at UAA and is honored to be selected to speak at commencement to continue representing students.
“For the last year, I’ve been able to speak on behalf of the student body, and this is the last time I’ll get to do that. It’s a little bittersweet, but I’m also really proud. This year, not just as student government, but also students in general have become a lot more engaged in the process. Whether that’s because of the state budget, or whether that’s because these things started impacting people on a much more personal level,” Taylor said. “I feel like we have been able to make and continue some really major strides for us, and I’m proud of that. We need to hear from everybody. We want to hear from everybody.”
Taylor and Ostrander have worked hard this year to represent the voices of students at UAA.
“Under Jonathon’s leadership this past year, USUAA expanded its legislative structure to incorporate delegates from each college in order to better represent students, has become the definitive voice of UAA students in print and television media, and had generated over 1,300 hours of documented effort in service of students,” Ostrander said. “Working with Jonathon has been an outstanding experience. His high energy and curiosity made him a vibrant presence in the office, in meetings, and at events.”
In addition to Taylor’s time representing UAA students on USUAA, Taylor was a member of the UAA debate team and represented UAA across the world competing in debate competitions. Johanna Richter, major in Math and Economics debated alongside Taylor for three years. Earlier this year, Richter and Taylor went and competed in the World Universities Debating Championship, where they placed 33rd as a team out of 400. This is also Richter’s last year being on the debate team, which they both say is bittersweet. Richter was recently elected as the upcoming USUAA vice president, alongside Sam Erickson as president. Richter says that she and Taylor have excelled in public speaking since they were first paired together in 2013.
“JT is naturally a really gifted speaker, but I think in the last year he really out did himself with how dynamic and engaging his speeches were, he got complimented on it by judges all the time,” Richter said. “He is definitely the type of person who sets an excellent example for everyone to look up to.”
Taylor will be speaking at the May 1 spring commencement at the Alaska Airlines Center. This will be Taylor’s final time representing UAA students as the outgoing USUAA president and as a graduating senior.