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It’s center stage for student speaker

When Emily Izzo’s par­ents ask her where she will be sit­ting during Northeastern’s 112th com­mence­ment at the TD Garden on Friday morning, she’ll have a very spe­cial answer: the stage.

Emily Izzo

Click the image above to watch Emily Izzo’s full Commencement speech.

That is from where Izzo, SSH’14, will deliver the stu­dent address. “This is going to be the first time in a while that my whole family will be in the same place at the same time,” she said two weeks before the big day. “I fig­ured it would be a cool surprise.”

As a figure skater on Northeastern’s club team, Izzo knows a thing or two about per­forming before a large crowd. She vows to remain calm, cool, and col­lected when she steps up to the podium to address some 20,000 people, including more than 3,500 graduates.

“As a figure skater, it makes sense that I like an audience,” Izzo said. “Going to North­eastern really means a lot to me. I did so much growing up here.”

Thirty-​​three stu­dents sub­mitted video recorded speeches this year, according to Emily Hardman, director of stu­dent program­ming and com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Stu­dent Affairs, noted that the selec­tion com­mittee found that Izzo’s speech “had an inspiring, pos­i­tive mes­sage and while it is per­sonal, it also speaks to the col­lec­tive stu­dent experience.”

The bulk of her speech will focus on encour­aging her fellow grad­u­ates to explore the world and step out of their com­fort zones by inter­acting with people from dif­ferent coun­tries, cul­tures, and backgrounds. Her mes­sage is simple: “Get out there and do everything.”

Izzo, an Honors stu­dent with a com­bined major in international affairs and cul­tural anthro­pology, has lived her message to the fullest. This is evi­dent begin­ning with her first co-​​op in Belfast, Northern Ire­land, where she worked for the Northern Ire­land Council for Inte­grated Educa­tion, helping to pro­mote the council’s mis­sion through a newsletter and news­paper supplements.

“It was really lib­er­ating,” Izzo said of her expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity, including exploring other coun­tries and cultures in Europe. “Since I was vol­un­tarily putting myself in a posi­tion of not having a phone or credit card that worked out­side the United Kingdom, I had to meet people. I had to talk to strangers in what­ever lan­guage I could. You end up hearing some great sto­ries that way.”

It was through her inter­na­tional expe­ri­ences that Izzo discov­ered her pas­sion for improving air quality. While on a Dialogue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram in St. Peters­burg, Russia, Izzo would go for runs with a friend. Though ath­letic, both would have dif­fi­culty run­ning in the nox­ious air.

“We would be gasping for air and lit­er­ally coughing up black,” Izzo said. “You are always aware of the issues with the envi­ron­ment and air quality, but you don’t actu­ally notice it until it’s staring you in the face and you can phys­i­cally feel it.”

The expe­ri­ence inspired Izzo’s third co-​​op, at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center where she admin­is­tered grants for renewal thermal projects in Mass­a­chu­setts, researched how renew­able thermal tech­nolo­gies were deployed in other markets world­wide, and con­tributed to a frame­work for the center’s future solar tech­nology investments.

Some of her con­tacts in the clean energy industry sug­gested that she would make a good chemist or biol­o­gist, but Izzo believes she made the right aca­d­emic deci­sion. “I’m good at com­mu­ni­cating the issues to the gen­eral public, which is impor­tant, because that’s where the dis­con­nect hap­pens,” she explained.

After grad­u­a­tion, Izzo plans to help manage the figure skating club and may return to work for the CEC. “I thought it was really inter­esting learning about what the industry needs were com­pared to when home­owners are willing to embrace renew­able ener­gies,” Izzo said.

– By Joe O’Connell

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