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 December 2018, 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 December 13 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.

Also, mark your calendar for the following important events:

  • application deadline October 10 for December 2018 graduation
  • mandatory meeting November 8 with Dean White regarding Commencement;
  • Professional Development Plan interview with the Career Development Office
  • sessions regarding financial aid issues and Bar Exam preparation;
  • commencement ceremony, and the
  • graduation reception in your honor.

Also, please 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 2018 submitted draft speeches to the committee and were selected as finalists.

After the committee heard the finalists, Haley Moss was selected as the Student Speaker for the May 12, 2018 Commencement.  The speech that was given at Commencement to the Class of 2018 is given here:

 Read Haley Moss's 2018 Speech

Good morning, everyone. It is an honor to be here and address you today. After three years, today is our last day together as Miami Law students. Tomorrow, we wake up as Miami Law alumni. To describe what today means to all of us – I don’t think there are enough words, but I can do my best to share with you how Miami Law has shaped us all into who we are and who we have yet to become. 

The most important idea that I’ve learned in law school wasn’t from a casebook or a courtroom, but rather from all of you. I learned that law is all about people. Our friends, our families, our professors, the clients we will one day serve. Everything we do revolves around other people. At  Miami Law, the people made the difference all the way around – and not just the ones who were part of interesting fact patterns. For those of you who are going to be doing commercial litigation – you already learned that corporations are people, too. So yes, people are what make the law school experience, the legal profession and life what it is. 

Of course, the people includes all of you, too. The amazing thing about law school is that each of us came here from different walks of life with the same goal. There is no doubt that every person’s road to get to Miami Law has been challenging. Everybody has a story. Whether you overcame adversity, doubted yourself, or struggled through the LSAT wondering what bearing logic games have on you becoming a lawyer, you got here. Some of us came here straight from undergrad, always knowing we wanted to be lawyers when we grew up. Others came here later in life from completely unrelated careers. Some of us knew we wanted to save the world and bring justice at the perfect government agency or nonprofit. Others….well, we didn’t know. Some of us wanted to make use of liberal arts degrees where becoming a lawyer seemed like the next logical step. Some of us wanted to be Elle Woods. Some of us wanted to make our families proud, or were here to make our parents happy. If that’s you, know that your family members and parents here today are extremely proud of you since you made it through law school in one piece. 

Even though each of us took a different road to get here, we’re all so connected to each other. We made the friends we didn’t know we needed. We found each other beginning on the day we got lumped into 1L sections, struggled to talk to each other at orientation ice cream socials, attended class with the same exact people for an entire year, and then branched out and found more of our people in clinics, law review, moot court, or doing something interesting. We made outlines together, we spent days in the library together, we cried and almost had nervous breakdowns together, and we found things we cared about together. Together, we learned a lot of interesting facts and rules in our case books about people with wild stories….remember in Torts when that lady thought she was Batman while driving? I’m sure it was in our outline somewhere. 

Outside of this bubble of studying and going to school together, we made our closest friends. A lot of us laughed at orientation when we were told that we’d find our best friends, bridesmaids, and soulmates here. Maybe it was me, but I was afraid to get cold called in class the next day. However, a good amount of you aren’t laughing anymore at the orientation remarks since you’ve found your best friends, bridesmaids, or soulmates. Some of you even found all three. We are lucky to have each other. 

What surprises me most about Miami Law is everyone’s ability to care so deeply about one another. Everyone likes to say how law school is competitive. At the end of the day, law school isn’t about the internships, the reading, the cold calls, the fear of the future. Rather than competition, everyone wanted to band together to get through this. Law school was not a road designed for us to walk alone. It is a magical feeling to hear “what can I do to help” almost everywhere you go. Whether it is helping putting boxes away from the BarBri table or collecting school supplies, or being pen pals with Miami’s fourth graders from Books and Buddies, we always answered the call to serve our community and each other. The world needs us and our giving spirit. 

While the friends we’ve made here are important, there are other people who made the experience for all of us. Without the faculty and staff members at Miami Law, I’m pretty sure most of us would not be here, or at least, we would’ve learned far less than we would have from those Emmanuels and E&E’s collecting dust on our bookshelves. We excitedly bought them Book Horizons once upon a time. Thank you all for pushing us to be our best. Thank you for imparting your wisdom, sharing your passion with us, and supporting our dreams. 

Of course, the most important people in our lives are our families. Our families have loved and supported us since Day One. They also have probably heard us complain, cry, and might as well have gone to law school themselves after seeing the (sometimes negligent) infliction of emotional distress we’ve felt throughout the past three years. Our families knew better. They believed in us beyond what we believed to be intentional infliction of emotional distress from finals. They fearlessly met us with love, compassion, and something other than Papa John’s pizza or boxed lunches when we spent some of our precious free time with them. They were always our cheerleaders. Our parents and family members believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves, and that is why we are here today. To all the families here to celebrate – our graduation is yours, too. Our law degrees are now part of our family stories. We will always remember today. We are all at the end of this law school chapter of our stories: together. 

Even as we spread our wings into the world and have “real adult jobs” that include “being a lawyer,” we will never forget the life lessons that the University of Miami taught us outside of the classroom about compassion and friendship. We are blessed to have had this experience. There will be a time where we don’t see each other every single day at Miami Law, but we will never be alone on our roads beyond today. In fact, we will always be together as lawyers, friends, and ‘Canes. The Class of 2018 is always with you as you take your next steps into the world beyond the library and the Bricks. I cannot wait to be a part of your journey, and I will always be amazed by all of your talents. It’s a big world out there and I am excited to see what you will do next. 

Congratulations, Class of 2018! We did it!  

 Read Frank Florio's Speech

Good morning. Before I begin I want to thank Dean White, our great faculty and staff, and every parent, friend, and family member in the room. We are all so thankful for all of you. I know I speak for my fellow classmates when I say that it has been an honor and a privilege to attend and graduate from the University of Miami School of Law. 

This is not going to be a cookie cutter student commencement speech. If you wanted to hear something like, “we did it” or “we are all going to change the world and be the best lawyers to ever graduate from the University of Miami,” I’m sorry. That’s not what I am going to tell you today because I don’t want to waste your time. Instead, I want to speak to you about the important task we are about to undertake, the responsibility that comes with it, and how to mold it into purpose. 

It’s important to understand that anything we obtain in this life is worthless if we do not use it to help others. Today, we obtain a degree from the University of Miami School of Law. Now, we may choose to view that piece of paper as a symbol of our accomplishment, which it is, and we should all be very proud of ourselves and each other. We may also choose to view it as a money-making ticket, which it very well may be. Or, we may choose to view it as a boost to our own ego and pride; a verification that we are someone important. However, what the degree we receive today really is, is the embodiment of the obtainment of knowledge. We have all heard the phrase, “knowledge is power,” but, what does that really mean? Very basically, when we know something others do not, it puts us at a unique and powerful advantage. From there, we have two choices. We can either share our knowledge with our neighbors in order to make them or their circumstances better, or we can use our advantage to overcome and conquer others for our own gain. That choice is power. If we do not view today’s accomplishment from that perspective, we are making a grave mistake. 

Today is the beginning of a series of very important decisions that will shape the lives of many people, not just our own. The law, our profession, is a service profession. Whether we serve in government, serve clients, businesses, or what have you, at some point, someone will be coming to us asking for help, and it will become our duty to serve them. How we perform this task will affect their lives and ours. Make no mistake, it is an immense responsibility. 

It is my belief that we cannot effectively undertake that responsibility, execute our duties, or considerably improve the conditions of those around us if we do not first look inward. We must recognize our own self-worth and understand that it is our unique individuality that makes us and those around us special. By focusing inward and striving to improve every day we are simultaneously helping those around us, because by bettering ourselves we become better daughters, better sons, better brothers, better sisters, better nieces, nephews, friends, and in this case better advocates. You see, it is not my hope that we strive to become the best lawyers the world has ever seen, but rather that we become the best version of ourselves. 

Nowadays it is easy for us to miss the importance of our own individual self-worth and the individuality of others. Nevertheless, this is what gives our life and our work meaning. It allows us to see others as more than their race, color, or religion. It allows us to see our fellow neighbor; our client, as something more than a paycheck. Recognizing the divine individuality of ourselves opens our eyes to see that each and every single person is similarly special and divine in their own right. 

This is a truth that goes beyond our profession, that recognition will help us effectively perform, make good choices, treat our fellow neighbors with respect, and thus make positive change. In other words, the best way to change the world isn’t to try and change the world. It is to look inward, recognize our own individual importance and the importance of the uniqueness of others, change and grow, accept responsibility, and obtain a purpose that positively influences those around us. 

What I’m asking is not going to be easy. The world is not a nice place. It’s really difficult to fix your faults and strive to become better each and every day. It’s not easy to see suffering and injustice and confront it. And it’s especially hard to go out into the world and speak truth into it when there are so many that don’t want to hear. 

What shall we draw upon for strength during this endeavor? Again, we don’t have to look any higher than ourselves. There is no need to turn to any ideology or power other than that of God or nature in order to manifest our true strength to help us overcome. Find your inspiration. Find your meaning. Find your responsibility. Our meaning and our purpose are not meant to be created on our own, but rather discovered. For that meaning and that purpose is already there. 
My 1L year, Dean James was the professor of my first class in law school. After everyone had piled in nervous and unsure of what to expect, Dean James had us pause, look at the clock, and she told us to remember this moment. She asked us to remember where we were and who was around us, because just like that law school would be over. And here we are. Dean James was an amazing torts professor, but I remember that lesson most of all. Life’s moments and decisions will come and go very quickly, and each moment, each decision, shapes who we are, who we were, and who we will become. Therefore, we must be prepared and grounded in a foundation, so we are ready to confront new decisions and new moments. The faster we discover who we are, the faster we will be able to bear our great responsibility properly and manifest it into something wonderful. 

Therefore, stand for what you believe in. Fight the good fight and remain true to your principles. I have met most of you over these last three years and I know the type of people sitting out there. All of you have the capability and the desire to be the best version of yourselves and to accept the great responsibility before us. All of you are willing to embrace this challenge. You are willing to look within, discover a meaningful path, carry it out, and help others. And although at times it will be hard, I know that all of you have the grit and tenacity to overcome the obstacles that will appear before you. I only ask that each of you match that grit and tenacity with an equal amount of compassion and love along the way.  
The fact of the matter is we don’t have a choice. Our society will be less off if we do not fulfill our potential. So, let us truly respect and understand exactly what we are becoming today. Let’s use our accomplishment, our achievement, our obtainment of knowledge in a positive way to create a sense of purpose and responsibility in our lives. 

Remember, all we really have is what we give. 

I consider myself blessed and fortunate to be a part of this class. I am so excited to see all of the great things that all of you do. So, University of Miami Law School Class of 2018, good luck and congratulations.  

Thank you.