Graduation/Commencement Overview

graduating studentsCommencement takes place twice a year in the fall (December) and the spring (May). Please continue to check these pages for specific graduation information.

Letter from Dean VanderWyden About the Graduation Ceremony


Your name has been included on a list of students who are close to completing requirements for graduation. If you are planning on completing your degree by May or August 2019, this message is meant for you. If you are graduating later, please disregard these instructions—we'll get back to you!

The Graduation Checklist is provided for your convenience. It is imperative that you read it carefully and adhere to all the deadlines given therein.

The Commencement Ceremony on May 11 represents the culmination of your long journey. You should make plans to be there with your family and friends. It will be a special day. Mark your calendar for the following important events:

  • application deadline for May 2019 graduation
  • mandatory meeting on February 14 with Dean White regarding Commencement;
  • exit interview with the Career Development Office
  • the events of Bar week, February 11-21
  • sessions regarding financial aid issues and Bar Exam preparation;
  • commencement ceremony, and the
  • graduation reception in your honor.

and get everything else on the Graduation Checklist accomplished in a timely manner.

As always, we are here to assist you at any time. Come and see me – if I can be of any help to you in completing these final steps.

With all best wishes, I am

Sincerely yours,
William P. VanderWyden
Assistant Dean for Professional Development

Commencement Speeches

In order to select the Student Speaker at Commencement each year, a committee of nine students, a faculty member, and an administrator is formed to solicit speeches each spring from members of the graduating class. Several members of the Class of 2019 submitted draft speeches to the committee and were selected as finalists.

After the committee heard the finalists, Sanjana Palla was selected as the Student Speaker for the May 11, 2019 Commencement. The speech that was given at Commencement to the Class of 2019 is given here, along with several others who submitted their speeches for the Class to read:

 Read Sanjana Palla's 2019 Speech

Good morning, my fellow Canes, friends, family, and faculty. I stand before you today in awe of the sheer magnitude of this momentous occasion. My goal is not to throw out generic motivational phrases like “the world is your oyster” but actually say something that resonates with yall right before we step out into the real world. When we began this journey to earn our JD’s, we were all scared and anxious, yet excited and starry-eyed. We knew all those horror stories about 1L were coming for us, and yet we did not back down. We wanted to be lawyers so badly, that after every semester we would throw out fractions on our social media accounts about being 1/6th a lawyer… ½ a lawyer… and now, today, a whole lawyer, well almost… the bar exam is swiftly approaching. I congratulate all of you on pushing through long nights in the library, dodging the vicious ducks on the bricks, handling med school beating us in Deans Cup, enduring the emotional rollercoaster of last-minute outlining, dealing with the utter heartbreak of not getting a purple parking lot pass, and surviving Elements.

We began our journey on the first day of 1L and were split into four sections (s/o Section A), and then further divided into clinics, practicums, organizations, concentrations, etc. We have all achieved well beyond our wildest dreams and have grown at an unimaginable rate that the little 0L before orientation could ever anticipate. Today we stand together as one united front of lawyers with all the necessary skills and tools to make a difference in this community, in this country, and in this world. Do not restrict yourself solely to your specific field of the law or your neighborhood. Cast the widest net possible and uphold the name of this institution. We are leaving here today not only as individual lawyers, but as the University of Miami School of Law graduating class of 2019. Make these astounding men and women behind me proud to call you their students . . . even more so than they already are.

As I look into the audience, it gives me so much pride and joy to see all these incredible people here to support us and champion our career goals. We stand here in front of our families, our friends, our support systems as shiny new finished products of the legal education system ready to go out into the community and make a difference. These are the people that we called during 1L when we were doubting everything, the people that pushed us to finish strong even when we wanted to quit so desperately. Graduates, this degree we earn today is not only ours but theirs as well. I urge you to turn to your people at some point today and just say “thank you”. . . and “sorry” in advance for the zombie you will become while prepping for the Bar. Our journey was not one that can be accomplished by all, and these people that held our hands down this path are the reason we are about to enter the esteemed practice of law. On a personal side note: Amma and Nana, from the bottom of my heart I thank you. Everything I am today is because of yall. Being able to show my gratitude on this platform for my parents, who have sacrificed so much to bring me to this country in hopes of better education, is the greatest honor of my life. So thank you, Miami Law, for giving me this opportunity.

Law school is not meant to be easy. It is meant to challenge us and rewire our brains to think in a way that most cannot. Do not underestimate what you have learned these past three years. You are getting this degree for a reason. Know that you are the first line of defense against injustice and have faith in your abilities. Whether you are going into the world of criminal defense, real estate, tax, sports, intellectual property, or wherever it may be… always know that you have the power to make exponential change in any community you choose to be a part of. Wherever you are in your career, always keep that in your heart and step up to the plate when you see injustice in our system. Your duty is to be the voice of the voiceless. Do not take that responsibility lightly. Do not just live for yourself, but thrive for this community because your successes are our successes.

However, no matter how successful we become, we will still have moments of doubt. That is normal. I want you to pay attention to every moment of doubt you have in your abilities. This phenomena is called imposter syndrome and all of us are afflicted by it at some point. The truth is, we are all out in this world just winging in. No one really has 100% expertise on anything. So keep your chin up and your determination high to learn, to experience, and to strive for greatness. This law school did not produce a quitter, and it certainly did not produce an underachieving lawyer. I have full faith that all of you here today will make some form of lasting change.

And a special note to my fellow women lawyers: always ask yourself “why not me?” Go into this world with your head held high and do not apologize for having an opinion and for being brilliant. Do not wait for opportunity to come to you, but chase it ardently and passionately. Be completely unapologetic about your strength and rise to the occasion. Be your own cheerleader and lead because you are not just good enough, but the best. And most importantly, stand up for your sisters in the industry so that together we can build a better future for our daughters.

During orientation, we were told that we will forever be changed by our time here and that we will cultivate lasting relationships that will lead to finding life-long friends, soulmates, and esteemed colleagues. They were right. We have been through something monumental, together. Faced the fear and uncertainty, together. Our cherished faculty have molded us into the toughest breed of professionals; professionals who can endure any kind of force majeure life throws at us with dignity, grace, and most importantly humility. So treat your peers, your adversaries, your subordinates, your clients, and essentially everyone with the utmost respect. What you do in your career is a reflection of this institution and our industry as a whole.

Whether you are at the top of the class or not, we are all here as equals. And as it is inscribed in gold on our courtroom walls “we who labor here seek only the truth.” May your journeys lead you to your truth, graduates. May you find your true self in your practice of the law and fight for others with vigor and passion. I am so proud to call each and every one of you my peers, my friends, and my soon-to-be fellow members of the Bar. I cannot wait to see the brilliant things each of you do in the future. The world is your oyster, Canes. What starts here truly has the potential to change the world. So let’s get this metaphoric bread, graduates! My sincerest congratulations to you, class of 2019! We have FINALLY arrived. Go Canes!

 Read Michelle De Vos' Speech

Good morning everyone. I want you all to imagine yourselves stranded on an island. What would you do? Would you wait to be rescued or would you take the initiative and seek to find the best way off the island? I would choose the latter. This should give you all a good sense of how most of us felt at one point or another during law school, a little bit isolated and perhaps occasionally stranded. While stranded on that island, we discovered that the most powerful tool in law school was something that we all had inside of us whether we knew it or not, the ability to connect. Through connecting, we did not remain stranded on that island. We built relationships brick by brick to build a bridge that brought us all together from one island to the next.

Although it was difficult to find the words to describe our experience at the University of Miami School of Law, in preparing for this speech, I have had an opportunity to reflect about our time here. In doing so, there was one word that stood out. And that one word is gratitude.

While today we receive a degree, what we discovered was more valuable than the degree. We found a home. Home is a term that can take on multiple meanings, and I think we can all concur that our home was built with the foundational support of the incredible people within the law school.

We all entered this home knowing that we were going to be amongst some of the smartest, most self-assured, and competitive people in the nation. Some of us, during law school, fell victim to the infamous Impostor Syndrome, where we would put on a façade acting as if we knew what we were doing, but in actuality we felt insecure and questioned why we were in law school. Many of us dropped the façade through taking part in some of the many programs in the School that give back to the community, for me it was the Street Law program. These programs provided us with invaluable experiences that we will never forget. While there were many challenges throughout law school, we found solace in realizing that we all faced the common struggles together. We pulled many all-nighters to avoid looking unprepared when cold called in class, became dependent on caffeine, and became accustomed to the nickname of Baby Cakes, which was nice to be called after a long day of classes.

We were told by many people that law school was going to change us. Initially, I brushed that statement aside thinking “how could law school have such an incredible power”. While reflecting back on our time in law school, I can honestly attest to that power. The beautiful thing about life is that it we are all capable of change and in law school we all did change in one way or another. Law school, for me, dramatically changed who I was as a person. I entered law school as the unlikliest of students to graduate let alone succeed because I failed to possess many of the common characteristics of a typical law student. I have Asperger’s, which is a high fuctioning form of autism. As such, I had difficulties communicating and establishing relationships with peers. Throughout my schooling, I was was bullied to a point where I almost did not graduate from high school and almost gave up all together. I never had a friend, and was closed off from the world due to the fear of being judged and rejected. During law school, in particular during the study period for the MPRE, everything changed. I found my catalyst. By that I mean Jessi Tamayo was the first person that I finally felt comfortable opening up to because she actually cared about what I went through.When I finally opened up, I realized my past does not define nor limit me. It merely strengthens me as a person because I chose to be a survivor rather than remain a victim. Once I opened up, I entered the bricks with my newfound voice, confidence, and an identity that I never knew I had. In doing so, I established many relationships because I no longer feared rejection nor judgement.

During law school, we applied the life lesson that we learned as children, which is “not to judge a book by its cover.” However, that lesson could not be applied in the context of law text books. Because when we caught a glimpse of that over 1000-page textbook so creatively entitled, Fundamentals of Contract Law or Torts, we knew it was going to be terrible…. and we were right. But when we applied the lesson throughout law school, we established many connections with incredible people.

Our class is truly remarkable in that we made a point to help each other out whether it be through volunteering to be a witness for a classmate’s litigation skills trial or just through being a listening ear when a classmate was going through a tough time. Together we broke the common misconception about how law school is so competitive. In reality, it is the polar opposite in that it is the most collaborative environment to be a part of, especially at the U.

The University of Miami School of Law is truly unique in that we are the only law school I know of that has its own King (have King standup), which is a factually accurate statement. But in all seriousness, it is truly unique because the connections established, were not limited to our classmates. Rather, our connections extended to the faculty and staff.

We were very fortunate to have had professors that challenged us to be the best lawyers that we could possibly be. Those professors proved to be much more than just brilliant academics. They were real people that were not afraid to let their guard down and possibly embarrass themselves in front of the class to ensure the students learn the material. One of the most memorable experiences in law school took place on the last day of Evidence where Professor Lave sang an Evidence themed version of “Last Dance” by Donna Summer. Another memorable experience took place at the Hope Karaoke event, where many faculty members, such as Dean James and Professor Dawson, let their guard down and sang many contemporary hits. The beautiful thing is that the connections built with the faculty went beyond the context of school, whether it be through grabbing lunch with a professor at the Farmers Market or having coffee with a professor during Legal Grounds.

If there is one thing I know it is that our class would not be where we are today without the University of Miami School of Law. And for that we are truly grateful.

Before I end my speech, I want to share with you all a quote that resonated with me throughout law school, which is that “Everyone has a story to tell, a lesson to teach, wisdom to share. Life is a beautiful masterpiece bound together by your experiences. Open up, share your story, become an inspiration to others. You can make a difference because you matter. You were created with a purpose. Live your life with intention, go out there make a difference by being the difference.” And this quote resonates with me in that if our lives were to be defined by our past experiences, differences, and or failures then Bill Gates would not have created Microsoft, Steve Jobs would not have created Apple, and we would not have made it to this point today. While today marks the end of one of the most invaluable chapters in our lives, the University of Miami School of Law has provided us with the best tools to embark upon our next chapter. And as we leave the University today, never forget the home we built at the U. Congratulations Class of 2019, now go make a difference by being the difference!

 Read Philip Papiasvili’s Speech

Good morning, everyone. It is truly humbling to be given the opportunity to speak to you today: A day that marks the last day we will all be gathered together as Miami Law students. The day when we become a part of the Miami Law alumni family. I am confident that I speak for many of us when I say that three years ago, I was not sure if I would make it to this point. I am also confident that I speak for a few of us when I say that three minutes ago, I was still not sure if I would make it to this point.

My journey, like many of us here, began with a desire. A desire to help people, and a desire to create change in this world. The problem was that I did not know where to put this desire, or how to create change and accomplish my goals.

My first impression of Miami Law came from my tour of the school. I immediately noticed not only how gorgeous the campus is, but the feeling of natural comfort that overcame me as I explored the grounds, and how it made me feel at home. I had the opportunity to speak with Therese Lambert in the Student Recruitment office, and we ended up speaking for nearly an hour. Not just about law school, but about life in general.

1L year was a challenge to say the least. Cold Calls and Case Briefs dominated our lives, as the library became our second home, and iced coffee became our blood type. We kept each other sane by filling our section WhatsApp groups with memes about this madness that our lives had somehow become. Sure, there were moments of intense doubt and frustration. We all needed to vent to Amy Perez once in a while, or fall asleep on top of a Contracts book in the lounge and drift away into our dreams… about our other law school classes - we could not get away. It’s these trying moments that have made us bonded in such a meaningful way. One of the best parts of my day was always walking onto the Bricks and seeing so many different tables full of people I knew, welcoming me to campus with a smile if it was Thursday afternoon, and let’s call it a “contemplative” look if it was Monday morning. But no matter the mood, we were always in this experience together.

We all took such different roads to get here, from different parts of the country, and different countries of the world. Our different backgrounds and life experiences are what have made getting to know you all so valuable. We all owe such a tremendous thanks to our families, those who are here today and those who could not make it, for supporting us and helping us get to this opportunity. To our parents, partners, siblings, and all the loved ones who have supported us throughout, we want to say a heartfelt thank you – we could not have made it this far without you.

Some of us came here for the Big Law job and the corner office. Others to work in government and either further or alter the agendas currently in place. Still others, motivated by the wonderful people in the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center, to work on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society, and ensure that every human being’s rights are respected. And then, still others, with no idea of what we wanted to do. But whether we want to be Clarence Darrow or William Jennings Bryan, the “scope” of the possibilities that now present themselves to us run as far as the eye can see.

To our professors, thank you for putting up with the same issues from us students year after year, answering our questions over email during the late hours of the night leading up to our Final Exams, and just being there to give us life and career advice when needed. The fact that we could read about our Professors in the New York Times one day, and sit down with you at the AskUs tent discussing current events on the next, was always something that left us students awestruck, and made us remember how lucky we are to be here.

To the Administration: thank you so much for aiding us on our journeys, from first pointing us towards Book Horizons for our 1L textbooks, to putting together this incredible Commencement Ceremony, the work you do does not go unnoticed. For creating this wonderful, collaborative environment, we thank you.

I would like to quickly share an anecdote with you all. During my 1L year, I was sitting in the law student lounge with a few fellow students, including 3L’s Edgar Sirenord and Andrea Ezell. We had just been inducted into the Society of Bar & Gavel, and I informed them that I was thinking of running for Secretary of the organization. Both of them encouraged me to run for President of the organization instead. I hadn’t thought I would be able to do that before, but their confidence in me made me think I could do it, and it was because of that push that I ended up becoming President.

The next year, during a social gathering, Edgar told me he was thinking about running for an SBA position, but wasn’t sure about it. Immediately, I told him he would make an excellent President. I reminded him that I would not have had to confidence to run for a Presidency position a year earlier if it weren’t for him, and told him that I was fully confident he would do a great job in the SBA as well. Edgar, of course, went on to become SBA President of our class the following year.

I tell this story to emphasize the monumental importance that we all play in each other’s lives when we support one another. Having confidence in a friend, or supporting someone who is striving for an accomplishment, can play an immeasurable role in their success. And as a group of Miami Law Class of 2019 graduates, when one of us succeeds, we all succeed – and this will be the case for the rest of our lives.

When we began this stressful, demanding, chaotic, fascinating, rewarding, and wonderful journey at Miami Law, we may not have known where to put our desires, or how to create change or accomplish our goals. But it is thanks to our families, our professors, our administrators, and all of our amazing fellow students, that we now have a much better idea of how to achieve what we are aiming for in this life.

I am in awe of so many people in this room. Congratulations to the Class of 2019 – I cannot wait to see where we all go from here.

 Read David Pringle’s Speech

Hello and good morning to all of you that have come to share this special day with all of us. Faculty, staff, family, friends, mentors, and loved ones. And of course — my colleagues and class mates for the past three years: The University of Miami School of Law Class of 2019!

I am incredibly humbled and honored to be given the opportunity to share a few words with you this morning. For those of you I have had the pleasure to get to know and spend time with over the past three years, it may come as a shock to learn that I struggled to come up with the right words to capture the full weight of this moment. Of course, you won’t be shocked to watch me give it a try anyway, as I am told I am not one to hold back on unsolicited opinions.

In all seriousness — we are gathered here today to celebrate a crowning achievement in our academic and professional careers.


That’s the magic number many of us have been thinking about from the moment we stepped foot in our first class. For me — that was 7:55, not 8, but 7:55 AM Monday morning for none other than Elements with Professor Fajer. Shout out to Section B, perhaps more infamously known as “The Swarm”.

88 credit hours was the number we have been striving to reach since the fall of 2016, when so many of us walked in to law school ready to take on whatever was thrown at us. Aside from course work, some of us filled these hours with clinics and externships. Some of us journeyed across the country and even the world to compete in moot court and appellate competitions or to participate in international exchange programs. Some of us produced nationally recognized legal scholarship on our law reviews.

And, to be honest, some of us just barely got by.

I think it’s important, and I want to take a moment to recognize, the graduates sitting here today that weren’t sure whether this was the right move for them. The students that, despite all the odds, despite overcoming all manner of obstacle, and despite whatever advantage or disadvantage society has levied upon them — these graduates sitting here today have persevered. Be proud of yourselves. Be proud of this accomplishment. I know I am.

Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I have the sneaking suspicion that there aren’t many of us that could have done this alone. I want to thank all of the parents, family, friends, and faculty that have put up with and listened to us complain for these past three years. Spouses, partners, family, and friends alike have been a part of this journey with us. Your patience knows no bounds. Specifically — I want to give a special thanks to the faculty, staff, professors, and attorneys that have guided and mentored us in both our academic and experiential learning. Those that reminded us that every set back was an opportunity to learn and grow. Those that, along with the rest of our loved ones — reminded us why we came here in the first place. Those that made sure to keep a box of tissues handy on their desks for those extra rough days. We could not have come this far without you.

So. Let’s talk brass tacks for a moment. A whole lot of us are about to start bar prep in earnest on Monday. Aren’t you excited?! While most of us aren’t exactly giddy to spend the next three months re-learning joint and several liability or issue preclusion, I’ll bet most of us are ready to get our careers started. While passing the bar is obviously incredibly important, I want us to remember that it’s what we do with admission to the bar is what truly matters.

We are among the privileged few that have been blessed with the ability to truly make a difference in our society. The career paths that we take and the decisions that we make will have an immeasurable impact on countless lives from every part of our varied communities. While each of us may have our own reason for embarking on this journey — we all have a shared responsibility to take seriously the tools we have been given, and to think critically about how we choose to employ these tools in the furtherance of a fairer and more just world.

During my 1L fall semester, Professor Campos told us to enjoy our fall break, because afterward we would never see the world the same again. Of course, this was largely in reference to seeing liability everywhere in every single aspect of our daily lives. But, more importantly, it was a recognition of the privilege that comes with the knowledge and skillset that has been bestowed upon us. I want to challenge us to take these instruments of knowledge and ability seriously — so that we may fulfill the goals of the institutions in our society, and support and protect the citizenry that depend on them.

I don’t have a fancy quote for you this morning. I don’t have a platitude or cliché to end with — designed to make us think any more deeply about all of this than we already are. What I do have is an emotion, and that is pure, unmitigated joy. Joy born out of the hard work we have poured into this effort. Joy born out of the experiences we’ve shared and life long memories and friendships we have created together. Joy born out of the lives we have already impacted and those yet to come. I am filled with joy! And I am filled with hope. Because I know what we are capable of. Now all we have to do is go out there and make it happen.

Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of this journey with you. And congratulations again to the Class of 2019.