Student speakers to honor spirit of Class of 2022

Commencement student speakers Bryanna Brown, of Atlanta, and Noor Ghanam, who has lived in cities across the globe, took different journeys to Washington University in St. Louis, but on Friday, May 20, both will converge on the stage at Francis Olympic Field to address their fellow members of the Class of 2022.

Here, the soon-to-be graduates reflect on their path to WashU and preview their speeches at the university’s 161st Commencement ceremony.

Graduate student speaker Bryanna Brown

Brown enrolled in the full-time master’s in business administration program at Olin Business School to study the skills necessary to tackle one of America’s most vexing challenges — fairly funding public schools.

“I saw firsthand how the inequities in resource allocation impacted my students,” said Brown, who taught fifth-grade math in her hometown of Atlanta at KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools. “To make a difference, you need leaders who can innovate and make strategic business decisions that put children and their education first.”


At Washington University, Brown traveled with her classmates to Washington D.C., Paris and Barcelona as part of Olin’s innovative Global Immersion Program and gained expertise in consulting, finance and management.

Brown also worked to support minority students as a Consortium Fellow. A Washington University professor, Sterling Schoen, founded the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management in 1966 to equip Black, Hispanic and Native American business students with the skills they need to secure positions in American corporations. Today, 21 of the nation’s top MBA programs are consortium members. 

“I’m proud to be a part of this community that strives to make sure that minorities in business have avenues to succeed,” said Brown who, as chapter co-president, helped new fellows prepare for the internship search; hosted community dinners; and sponsored programming for all Olin students. “I’m a career-changer who did not have a business background, and being a Consortium Fellow gave me a sense of camaraderie right from the beginning.” 

Brown also has served as a graduate student representative for the Board of Trustees, where she championed student stipends, child care, housing and mental health resources for graduate students. She also has advocated for events and programs that bring graduate students together. 

“As graduate students, we tend to stick in our silos, but it’s important to collaborate with students across disciplines. And that starts with meeting,”  Brown said. “I think the Board of Trustees is making a concerted effort to understand the graduate student perspective and to better serve these students and support their remarkable work.”

Brown will recognize that work during her remarks to the Class of 2022.  

“We’ve persevered through COVID and incredibly chaotic circumstances,” Brown said. “As much as we’ve done, there is still so much to do and so much to give back. This is just the beginning.” 

After graduation, Brown will move to Minneapolis, where she will work at 3M as a strategist in its renowned Strategy and Marketing Development program. Ultimately, she hopes to return to education. 

“I am excited to get more of the training that I started at Olin,” Brown said. “But I’ll never be far from education. It’s really important to me that every child has the chance for an equitable education.”

Undergraduate student speaker Noor Ghanam

Growing up, Ghanam attended nine different schools in cities from Pittsburgh to Doha, Qatar. Each new place gave Ghanam a deeper appreciation for different cultures, ideas and people. Yet she never truly understood the power of community until she arrived at Washington University.  


“WashU has given me a lot, but what makes WashU so special to me is it really offered me the opportunity to give back, too,” said Ghanam, who majored in biology and minored in medical humanities and writing, all in Arts & Sciences.

During her time at Washington University, Ghanam served as Engage STL Bear Leader, introducing first-year students to community engagement; a second-year student associate, helping sophomores connect socially and thrive academically; and a Gephardt Institute Civic Scholar, supporting children at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, a rehabilitation facility for young patients with severe trauma and chronic illness.

“I know how difficult it can be to transition to a new place, so it has been really great to help other students find their footing at WashU and in St. Louis,” Ghanam said. “And I’ve learned so much about community building and St. Louis. Entering a community is not just about settling into a physical space; it’s about learning about the history and listening to the people.” 

In her Commencement address, Ghanam will celebrate all that her classmates gave to WashU and the broader community while acknowledging all they lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The fact is that we missed out on a lot,” Ghanam said. “But the Class of 2022 showed up. We went to Zoom classes. We were there for one another.”

Ghanam will remain in St. Louis to work as a physician facilitator at Total Access Urgent Care before attending medical school next year. Ultimately, Ghanam would like to provide end-of-life care to children. It’s hard to imagine a field more rife with heartbreak, but the pandemic prompted her to think, really for the first time, about death and dignity. 

“I want to be that physician who makes vulnerable families feel safe and cared for,” Ghanam said. “In moments when we know someone is going to die, there is so much we can do to help that person and their family. Pain may always accompany death, but so may solace and comfort.”

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