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Recent IUPUI graduate Amber Kriech has long had a passion for public speaking, a characteristic that led to her most recent endeavor: delivering a commencement address to over 4,000 of her fellow Jaguars. Though most students would likely have found the idea of being onstage in front of that many people daunting, for Kriech it felt like a fitting end to her undergraduate career. “I had some butterflies on my way up there, but once I was there facing everyone, it just felt right,” she says of the experience.
While it was the largest audience she has ever addressed, Kriech felt more excited than nervous for the opportunity. “This experience was different from anything else I’ve ever done at IUPUI because it felt like for the first time I was able to give back to my university and to my fellow students, both of which have done so much for me,” she explains in a reminiscent tone.
That same sense of support can be traced all the way back to Kriech’s first days at IUPUI four years ago. Having graduated from Carmel High School, she describes the transition to college as being “extremely smooth,” largely due to the welcoming people at IUPUI.
“Everyone worked very hard to make me feel like I was a member of this campus,” says Kriech. Her connection to campus grew over the next four years, eventually leading to her learning of the opportunity to speak at graduation.
The student speaker admits she was apprehensive about the opportunity when she read about it for the first time in an email: “I thought, do I really need this on my plate. . . . Would I even be in the running for something this big?” It wasn’t until she received encouragement from multiple faculty members that she felt confident enough to make the decision, saying, “I wouldn’t be here” without their support.
After her initial application, which included multiple essays and drafting an outline of her potential speech, Kriech obtained feedback for revisions from an interview team before being selected as the student speaker. She continued revising the speech, actively seeking a sentiment that would connect with “as many people as possible” in a varied audience containing everyone from emotional parents to stoic veterans. Once the final draft came together, there were several rounds of rehearsals before the official delivery on Sunday, May 14.
Her speech discussed the graduates’ past, present, and futures, emphasizing how the skills the students obtained over their undergraduate journeys can be used to change the world. While Kriech is sure she is meant to foster change, she is still deciding the best way to do so—a fact that she has come to terms with and encourages other students to do as well.
“There are times during your undergraduate career where you’ll feel like everyone around you has it all figured out, and you start to wonder ‘why don’t I know,’ but the truth is: it’s okay not to know. Just enjoy your time in college and take advantage of the many resources the university has to offer you. It will always work out if you follow your passions,” says Kriech.
Taking her own advice, the diligent student now plans to obtain a Master of Arts in sociology, a passion that she discovered almost by accident during her time as an undergraduate. She originally started taking sociology courses as a way to fill up her schedule, but enjoyed them so much that she ended up graduating with a minor in sociology.
While Kriech says it’s “still hard to believe” that she has graduated, she is eager to begin graduate school where she will be focusing on youth medicine and social statistics. She is also pursuing a graduate certificate in human resources development, a program she is excited about because it is “more people focused” than her undergraduate studies. Though she says “I’m not sure where [graduate school] is going to take my career,” she is determined to help people and to make an impact on the world. Any doubts are as fleeting as the butterflies she had on stage. “I know it’s the right step,” she declares.