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Commencement Speakers Exemplify Impact, Excellence, Service

Six leaders in their fields will address more than 3,000 Eagles at the 147th ceremonies, May 10–11 and May 18.

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2024 commencement speakersAmerican University today announced an inspiring slate of speakers for the 147th commencement, which kicks off May 10. They include a National Book Award nominee; a Golden Globe–winning actress; leaders in civil rights, national security, and banking regulation; and the new owner of the Baltimore Orioles.

“We’re excited to welcome six changemakers who will continue AU’s tradition of celebrating our graduates and empowering them to continue to pursue their paths of purpose, service, and leadership,” President Sylvia Burwell said. “As leaders who have achieved success in a variety of fields, our spring commencement speakers will inspire our graduating Eagles to fulfill their potential to be the change our world needs today.” 

More than 3,000 members of the Class of 2024 will collect their diplomas during the ceremonies, joining an alumni community 150,000 Eagles strong. Meet the speakers who will offer words of encouragement and lessons in perseverance with Eagles set to fly the nest.

Kogod School of Business

Friday, May 10, 9 a.m.

David M. Rubenstein is cofounder and cochairman of the Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest and most successful investment firms with $426 billion under management. A native of Charm City, he is also the owner of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles. Rubenstein chairs the boards of the Kennedy Center, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the National Gallery of Art, among others. A leader in patriotic philanthropy, he’s also made transformative gifts to numerous DC institutions. 

Undergraduate speaker: Jasmin Peña Coba

Graduate speaker: Savannah Haeger

School of Public Affairs

Friday, May 10, 1:30 p.m.

Michael S. Barr has since 2022 served as the vice chair for supervision of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve. Prior to his appointment, he was the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, where he founded the Center of Finance, Law, and Policy. The Yale-educated lawyer also served as a law clerk to US Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter. 

Undergraduate speaker: Lauren Giddings

Graduate speaker: Bibikhadisa Saidova 

School of International Service

Saturday, May 11, 9 a.m.

British A. Robinson is the coordinator for Prosper Africa, a US presidential national security initiative aimed at strengthening the strategic and economic partnership with African countries, where she works closely with the White House National Security Council and 17 US federal agencies to forge partnerships with businesses, investors, and government leaders. Robinson began her career in government as deputy coordinator and director of private sector engagement for the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. 

Undergraduate speaker: Jeremy Acaba

Graduate speaker: Anastasiia Baydyuk 

College of Arts and Sciences 

Saturday, May 11, 1:30 p.m.

Caroline Aaron, CAS/BA ’74, is an actress, author, and playwright best known for her role as Shirley Maisel on the award-winning Amazon series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She made her Broadway debut in the late Robert Altman’s Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and has since appeared in more than a hundred films and myriad theater productions. Aaron stars in 2024’s short film, 4th Dementia, an absurd multiverse comedy about Alzheimer’s. 

Undergraduate speaker: Collin Coil 

Graduate speaker: Glory Iorliam 

School of Communication and School of Education

Saturday, May 11, 6 p.m.

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times bestselling author of 40 books, including The Undefeated, winner of the Caldecott Medal and nominee for the National Book Award. He is also the Emmy-winning executive producer, showrunner, and writer of The Crossover, the Disney+ series based on his Newberry Medal–winning novel of the same name. A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, Alexander is the creator and host of the Why Fathers Cry podcast. 

Graduate speaker: Bailey Haines 

Washington College of Law 

Saturday, May 18, 1 p.m. 

Sherrilyn Ifill is a civil rights lawyer and scholar who served from 2013–2022 as president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. She is the Vernon Jordan Distinguished Professor in Civil Rights at Howard Law, where later this year she will launch the 14th Amendment Center for Law and Democracy. Named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2021, Ifill is completing her latest book about race and democracy in crisis, Is This America?