Graduation/Commencement Overview

Commencement 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 2017, 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.

Also, mark your calendar for the following important events:

  • application deadline for May 2017 graduation
  • mandatory meeting February 16 with Dean White regarding Commencement;
  • exit interview with the Career Development Office
  • the events of Bar Week, February 13-16;
  • 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 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. Four members of the Class of 2017 submitted draft speeches to the committee and were selected as finalists.

After the committee heard the four finalists, Linet Suárez was selected as the Student Speaker for the May 11, 2017 Commencement.  The speech that was given at Commencement to the Class of 2017 is given here:

 Read Linet Suárez's 2017 Speech

Good evening everyone. It is an incredible honor to address you as student commencement speaker. It is difficult task to describe our shared law school experience, but I will begin by admitting that law school has been one of the most challenging chapters in our lifetimes. 
We spent three years buying casebooks just so we could return to Book Horizons in four weeks to buy supplements when we realized we do not have time to read all those casebooks. 
If casebooks and supplements were not enough work, we also read three outlines from previous students in addition to creating our own original outline that we always started with the best intentions, but so rarely finished. Throw in some index cards, highlighters, tabs, and about three to four cups of coffee a day and you have the typical law school experience. 

Most of this effort was in hopes of being prepared if you were cold called in class by a professor—which is its own unique type of intentional infliction of emotional distress. 
Now to be fair and provide a “however” counterargument to this Alex Schimel-esque IRAHNC commencement speech, some students enjoy the thrill and rush of adrenaline when they hear their name called by a professor. Some students even believe cold calling is an opportunity to learn in the time-honored traditional Socratic method. “Nevertheless,” I never met this type of student during my time in law school so in “conclusion,” cold calling is the worst.

In spite of all these experiences, or perhaps because of these experiences, I can only think of one word when I reminisce on these past three years and that word is “grateful.” A lot has happened in these past three years, but I want to spend our last day together focusing on the only statement of facts that truly matter in law school.

The first fact is that we would all be lost without each other. I never thought that I would come to law school to learn about kindness and friendship, but that is exactly what happened. None of us could have succeeded without the encouragement of our fellow law students. Our friends were always cheering us on when we competed in moot court competitions, when we were editing on law review, and when we were preparing for our clinic hearings. Some truly special friends were even there for us when we needed a witness for the Litigation Skills final trial at 8:00AM on a Saturday morning at the Gerstein Courthouse. If that is not true friendship, then I don’t know what is. Our class has never ceased to impress me with their brilliance and work ethic, but what impresses me most of all is that we never hesitated to ask each other “what can I do to help you?” 

The second fact is that we are forever indebted to our professors for our education and the administration at the University of Miami for their support. We owe many tears and sleepless night to certain professors, but ultimately, those are the professors we have come to respect and love the most because they are the ones that demanded excellence and dedication. We will spend the rest of our careers trying to meet your high standards and for that we thank you. I also think the entire student body is indebted to Professor Sawicki. Many of us do not know you personally, but thanks for all the coffee. Our Wednesday nights will never be the same without your weekly Legal Grounds reminder email. It also goes without saying that if we owe our legal training to our professors, then many of us owe our sanity to Dean Lennon and the HOPE office. The HOPE office empowered us every day by reminding us through the words of Margaret Mead “…that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

The third fact is that we did not do this alone. I know I do not have to explain to this audience about the challenges of law school and what we as students had to overcome to reach graduation. You know our hardships better than most because you are the ones that made it possible for us to cross this finish line. In fact, after listening to your loved ones whine about law school for three years you must be wondering why you are not the ones getting a law degree. My own mother has heard me recount the horrors of being cold called in Torts class so many times that she could probably list the elements of negligence if I called on her right now. The University of Miami cannot confer all the family members in this audience a law degree so at the very least let us students take a moment to thank you for all your patience and support throughout our journey. 
Our law degrees belong to all of you too. Just make sure not to practice any law with it because I am pretty sure I saw something on the MPRE about that being “illegal.” 

For the foregoing reasons, I think it is fair to say that our law school experience was not all that bad. In fact, if we really consider totality of the circumstances, we had a pretty great experience and for that we should all be “grateful.”

The University of Miami has trained us well and as we leave our home of the past three years, my only wish for our class is that we never forget our roots. As we have all said in the library many times before, “the struggle is real,” but in this case—the struggle was worth it. From the bottom of my heart, congratulations to the Class of 2017. I cannot wait to see what you do next. 

Opportunity was given to the finalists to have their speeches published as well.  Princess Manasseh submitted her remarks for their classmates to enjoy:

 Read Princess Manasseh's Speech

Good Evening Faculty, Staff, Distinguished Guests, and of course,Class of 2017. It is my distinct honor to address you this evening.

If there is one thing law school and brief writing in particular, have taught me, it’s to cite a source because no one’s interested in your personal opinion.

You can thank that instruction for why this speech will be so quote heavy.

And because brief writing is something we can all relate to, I’ve loosely structured my words to you this evening, in the form of an Appellate Brief.

For those of you guests here with us who chose to study something other than law, first of all, thank you for bringing us some much needed diversity, and second, legal writing is very straightforward so this will be easy to follow.

As with all legal writing, I must tell you where I’m going and how I’m going to get there, so I’ll give you the roadmap:

Our question presented is, whether this commencement is in fact and ending or a beginning. 

The brief answer is that it is both. It marks the end of a three-year journey we’ve taken together. The end of spending late nights in the clinic office, the end of traveling across the U.S.and the Atlantic for Moot Court competitions, and the end of raiding the bricks for free pizza and Lexis Nexis water bottles.

But more importantly it’s also a beginning, and a very telling one at that. By earning this degree we’ve proven that we are capable of accomplishing great things, and so we must, from here forward, continue to pursue greatness.

In the table of authorities you’ll find Aristotle, best-selling author Jim Rohn, and a little conventional wisdom.

Now to summarize the facts…

As we reflect on the past three years and the journey to this great accomplishment there have been some countless unforgettable moments. Take orientation for example. When we charmed a sitting Supreme Court Justice. Don’t forget, that it was with our class
that Justice Kennedy discussed the inspirational quality of Legally Blonde in China.

But charming as we may have been, we came in as any other crop of 1L’s, bright eyed and terrified of what lay before us. 

Our section Facebook groups were perpetually updated with frantic comments about what we needed to do for the next day’s class.

The tragedy of 1L year as it turns out, is that no one understands that your sole responsibility as a 1L is to do the reading—that’s it. But by the time you figure that out and stop succumbing to the hysteria its 2L year which is basically the opposite.

So wrought with the responsibilities of never-ending clinic work, law review and moot court assignments, jobs at law firms, and running student organizations, a 2L is lucky to get even one reading done before the reading period begins.

And so, 2L year is where some of us learned that watching 12 hours of Barbri videos in place of reading will not in fact get you an A.

Then came 3L year or 3Lol as its affectionately called.

With the finish line so close in sight, it’s hard for a 3L to take anything too seriously. Except maybe extra-curriculars, like the Deans Cup, and Barrister’s Ball, SBA socials at the Rat, bar crawls down Coconut Grove, yes by 3L year we finally figured out how to enjoy law school without so much of the stress.

We know how to efficiently locate the best outlines for each of our classes, we already have a friend with the book and the best supplement so we don’t have to worry about buying them, and by now we’re tight with the research librarians, who still insist on showing us how to find the answers, when we’re really just hoping they’ll give them to us.

But in the days that have expired between orientation and now, we have proven something very significant. Here, I will summarize the argument.

With this degree we have proven indisputably that we are achievers capable of accomplishing great things.

Jim Rohn said that success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.

Over these past three years, through reading and writing and researching...and rereading and rewriting and shepardizing more cases, we have been consistently applying basic fundamentals. And for that effort, we now have the success of a Juris Doctorate.

Conventional wisdom says that you cannot have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic. Well I’m here to remind you class of 2017, that we have a million dollar work ethic. We know this because we are wearing these robes today. We turned in every assignment, completed every exam, finished every brief, wrote every memo, we’ve left nothing undone.

So then, if we have the work ethic, let us not forget to dream extravagant dreams.

Law school was a lofty goal whether you realize it or not. Many of us haven’t realized that because we worked our way through as if failure were not an option. Class of 2017, continue in that mind frame. Continue to set lofty goals thinking only of a successful outcome. We have what it takes we’ve just proven it.

We are an extraordinary crop. Together as a class we have, provided over 9000 hours of pro bono legal services to the Miami-Dade community. We have helped to recuperated over 4 million dollars in benefits for the disabled through the health rights clinic, we have helped dozens of immigrants retain citizenship through our immigration clinic, we have reinforced reading and writing skills with 150 elementary school kids through books and buddies, we have taught hundreds of high schoolers everything from the Fourth Amendment to Copyright through Street Law.

Class of 2017 we are capable of whatever we set our minds to. So for the forgoing reasons, please, remember to dream big.

Thank you.