Mariam Baqai will be representing the graduating class as the senior speaker for the 131st Commencement Ceremony on May 18.
Baqai is from Fremont, California, and entered Mills as a first-year student four years ago. She is currently majoring in economics and minoring in computer science.
Her commencement speech centers around four themes from her time at Mills: resilience, community, standing up for yourself and the importance of appreciating the moment.
“I started to think about what I could say that’s applicable to most of the class, so I kind of just picked out topics like resilience and community and support that I thought that a lot of people could relate to and then picked out an individual story from my experience,” Baqai said. “I didn’t want the story to be about me, I wanted it to be about us.”
Angelica Sanabria, the events manager for the Senior Class Council, was in charge of recording all of the speeches at the audition. She appreciated the balance of personal and relatable themes in Baqai’s speech.
“I like how it highlighted several moments that we’ve all experienced and shared, but at the same time it’s also personal,” Sanabria said. “You can kind of go ahead and mesh it to your own experience so I’m excited for that. I’m ready for the tears.”
Baqai struggled to come up with a takeaway from her senior year, since she felt like it went by much more quickly than the rest.
“I feel like with my first three years I was taking my time and each semester went by and I was really enjoying my classes, but senior year just flew by,” Baqai said. “I feel like I was just a freshman four days ago.”
With graduation fast approaching, Baqai has been reminiscing on her favorite moments at Mills, some of which include spending time with her peers.
“I’ve always liked to sit out in the sun with a book and a mango iced tea from the Tea Shop,” Baqai said. “I think those are a lot of people’s fondest memories, just sitting out with your friends enjoying the beautiful weather and beautiful campus, just being happy.”
During her senior year, Baqai became a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world. In order to apply, she needed five to eight letters of recommendation, an endorsement from President Hillman, and she participated in mock interviews with the Board of Trustees.
“I never anticipated that I would get to that level and it was really great to have the school’s endorsement behind my back,” Baqai said. “I really loved that I had so much support from Mills and I think that one of the great things about going here is that you get so much support from the faculty, the President and from your fellow students.”
Baqai felt that the support that students receive from the faculty at Mills is one of the best aspects of the College.
“I think the faculty are phenomenal here and so supportive,” Baqai said. “Especially the select few that I’ve had the privilege to encounter in my time here.”
Along with the faculty and her friends, Baqai’s biggest source of support throughout her time at Mills has been her family. After discovering that she was selected to be the student speaker, Baqai called her parents to share the news.
“I called my parents first and they were super excited. I am most excited to see my parents in the crowd,” Baqai said. “It feels like it’s been a real journey over the past four years and to be able to see them and them see me up there and walk the stage, I think that will be my favorite moment.”
After graduation, Baqai has plans to travel with her friends, and then she will be joining the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. In the near future, Baqai hopes to apply to a joint MBA and MPP program at Harvard University.
Graduating student Socorro Montaño is looking forward to hearing Baqai’s speech.
“She just always seems to be doing a lot during her time at Mills so since she’s been so busy, as we all have, I think it’ll be really exciting to hear a final parting from her,” Montaño said.
Baqai is trying to spend more time living in the moment, which is the final theme she discusses in her speech.
“I think what I need to learn is that time is going by fast and you need to live in the moment and appreciate the moment, it can’t always be about the next step and the next step and the next step,” Baqai said. “You need to be like ‘I’m here, this is what I’m doing, and this is a good moment in time.’”
As the student speaker, Baqai is looking forward to addressing her fellow classmates.
“Be proud of what you accomplished here and use it to make the difference that you want to see,” Baqai said. “All of the work, all of the effort, it was all worth it because of this moment that you get to graduate.”