Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 02:03
Senior Kristen Ford will deliver an address at this year’s commencement ceremony in May as the winner of the 2013 Wendell Phillips Memorial Scholarship, the Committee on Student Life (CSL) announced yesterday.
The scholarship, presented annually by the CSL, honors a junior or senior who exemplifies outstanding speaking skills and a dedication to public service. Ford secured the win over three other finalists, seniors Aparna Ramanan, Ethan Peritz and Emily Poole.
A panel of judges awarded Ford the prize after the finalists delivered short speeches yesterday afternoon, according to CSL co-chair and Associate Professor of Biology Philip Starks.
“[We] heard all four talks, then discussed both the content and presentation skills of each finalist,” he said. “Once we had carefully discussed the merits of all candidates, we voted.”
Starks said that the caliber of the contestants’ presentations was extremely high, noting that the award could have gone to any of the finalists.
“The overall quality this year was phenomenal,” he said. “Kristen really knocked it out of the park. Her ability
was just fantastic. I believe Kristen won today because of the depth and relatable content of her talk and the grace and humor with which she presented it.”
Ford will receive a cash prize in addition to the honor of serving as the sole student speaker at the Baccalaureate Service. She said winning the award was exciting both because she will represent the Class of 2013 at the ceremony and as a matter of redemption: Ford was in the running to speak at her high school graduation, but was not ultimately chosen.
“I remember thinking at the time, ‘My life is over; I don’t know what to do,’ but this actually just reminded me that everything comes full circle,” she said. “If you don’t succeed one time, just keep trying. Sooner or later, it’ll work out.”
She hopes to use the opportunity to thank the university for all that she has learned over the past few years.
“I’m so excited to speak on behalf of my class. It’s really an honor to talk about this journey that I’m sure we’ve all had,” Ford said.
The Wendell Phillips Memorial Scholarship was established in 1896 to pay homage to the Boston preacher and orator for which it is named. One student at Tufts and one student at Harvard University are awarded the scholarship each year.
The CSL selected the finalists out of a pool of 14 applicants, who submitted a resume, a description of their community service experience, an essay and a recorded oral presentation, Starks explained.
The topic of this year’s final presentation was the effect of social media and technology on awareness of social issues, according to Starks. Each finalist was allotted five minutes to provide their take on the prompt.
Ford said advancements in technology have hindered social awareness, using unlimited food buffets as an analogy.
“As you know, social media and technology gives us this endless buffet of information, and at the moment we think, ‘This is great — I can eat whatever I want, I can take in all the information,’ but we’re not really digesting anything,” she said. “You get a little bit of everything but don’t wind up with anything.”
Ford believes the analogy she used in her presentation helped secure her the award over the other competitors.
“I think it really painted a good picture for what I’m saying and carried people through the whole talk,” she said. “I think because I kept drawing it back to the analogy of food, that’s something we can all relate to, and that kind of kept people listening.”