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CLASS OF 2014 | Q&A with Commencement Speaker Daljit Baines

Daljit Baines, the Commencement speaker.
Daljit Baines, the Commencement speaker.

How is the commencement speaker chosen? Renee Jadushlever gave us some insight on the process.

The senior class has a committee to make recommendations for the commencement speaker. They usually begin work early in the semester and present a list of names to the Office of the President in the Fall of their graduating year. They include information on why they selected a specific speaker. Based on three criteria that the Presidents Office looks at helps determine who the senior class will ask to speak at commencement. The criteria includes whether the speaker has spoken before, if the speaker has costs and if there is any previous or good connections with the speaker.

The Presidents Office then tries to contact the top choices for the speaker. A letter is written on behalf of the senior class and comes from the President. Then based on responses from the speaker and their staff, a speaker is chosen.

Daljit Baines, a 1999 alumnae, will be this year’s commencement speaker. She spoke with The Campanil about her time at Mills, her upcoming speech at commencement and her current position at the Peace Corps.

TC: What are your plans for your commencement speech?

DB: My topics are going [to] be in service and public service. I named my speech “Walking the Earth;” being able to ‘walk’ where we live firstly for self-development and then realize the contributions we can make to the world. I think we have a better idea of it when we get out of the worlds we live in personally, interpersonally, professionally and sometimes physically. Sometimes if you have a rough go of it…it really leads to self-development.

TC: Did you ever have a feeling that you would be giving the commencement address at Mills?

DB: Haha, never. [I] wasn’t on every varsity team, and I wasn’t getting 4.2’s. I think A lot of this is the focus is on the people who are thinking ‘oh I didn’t do enough there’ and there’s this nagging voice in the back of their head. It’s funny because my dad leaned over during my ceremony to my sister and my mom and said “Isn’t she going to get any awards?” I remembered a part of it always kind of resonated with me, saying to myself “oh I should have done more, I didn’t do enough, [I] should have done more to make my parents proud.” It’s interesting because it’s come full circle. I’m very honored and humbled to be asked to speak. It really is a very big honor.

TC: How does your experience from Mills relate to your career now?

DB: I think the exposure at Mills has been really good for me in a lot of ways. The small classroom sizes really encourage conversation and dialogue. I think that’s a really important thing for me. The other big things have been a sense of intellectual curiosity, which was really encouraged…’cause of the smaller campus, it was easier to have conversations from women studies majors to art majors [and] from race relations to anthropology. So it was really a comprehensive education while [I was just] a bio major. … The work I do at the Peace Corp is about human relations, the work you do as a journalist is about human relations, what the president of Mills does is about human relations—everyone is different everyone is introverts or extroverts, there is no right or wrong. That’s what life is about at the end of the day, community and what you can do to establish connections. Establishing connections is the sense of community and connections with people.

TC: Lastly, do you have any advice for soon-to-be grads?

DB: Its hard, because of Steve Jobs’ speech [that said] follow your intuition, follow your heart, because I feel like that’s completely taken and belongs to that speech, but it holds true. Be true to you and be true to who you are. Be true to a big part of your life is self-care, so be careful of what is coming into your mind. What are the messages you believe? I believe that grads today are facing the same headlines that everyone has faced—that today [is] the worst time to get a job, and I think it really starts to affect you and it really on what you focus on. Be careful what you focus on. It’s a constant input because there are so many negative issues…Do something for you to make sure it’s replacing something else. Whatever you’re doing to cultivate the garden of your mind so it’s not all the weeds and the dead flowers or whatever, but you’re planning your peach trees and plum trees. But the other things to undo the things we’re getting throughout the course of the day.

For more graduation-related posts, check out The Campanil‘s designated 2014 Commencement webpage here or click on the “Commencement” link in the upper right hand corner of the header.