Student and Faculty Speakers in Celebration of the Puget Sound Class of 2017

Dear Members of the Puget Sound Campus Community:

I am pleased to announce the student and faculty speakers who will celebrate the Puget Sound Class of 2017.

The Selection Committee has named:

  • Rachel Schroder ’17 as the Academic Convocation student speaker
  • William Breitenbach, Professor of History, as the Academic Convocation faculty speaker
  • Elena Becker ’17 as the Commencement student speaker

Rachel Schroder, from Walnut Creek, Calif., will graduate with a major in Classics. During her time at Puget Sound she has played trombone in the Jazz Orchestra and worked at the Center for Intercultural and Civic Engagement (CICE) as an Interfaith Coordinator, serving as a liaison to the administration for students’ spiritual needs while providing programming and support for faith-based communities on campus. Through her role with CICE, Rachel attended the 2015 Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City. Rachel has served as president of the student social justice and meditation community SASS (Student Alliance for Satyagraha Studies) for three years and also worked with professors for two semesters as a program assistant for Reacting to the Past classes. This year Rachel also served as a student-at-large on the ASUPS Governance Committee, helping to monitor the documents produced by Senate to strive for equity and justice. At Academic Convocation Rachel will ask, “Since When Was Justice Carved in Stone (Aside from Our Obelisk in 1986)?

Professor of History William Breitenbach (Ph.D., Yale University) will deliver the convocation address, “The Might of the Living Dead.”  A longtime member of the Puget Sound faculty, Professor Breitenbach was trained in American Studies. As a teacher of early American history, he has enjoyed leading courses on utopian communities, New England witchcraft, Abraham Lincoln, and the Transcendentalist movement. Outside of the classroom, he says he amuses himself by dreaming up comparisons of ill-matched American texts from the mid-nineteenth century.  Some of these comparisons have been presented publicly. Professor Breitenbach was the John D. Regester Lecturer in 1997, and he received the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2011. He will retire after the current academic year.

Commencement speaker Elena Becker, from Bellevue, Wash., will graduate with a major in Sociology and Anthropology and a minor in French studies, with an emphasis in Global Development. She is a student in the Coolidge Otis Chapman Honors Program. Elena has been a starting defender on the varsity lacrosse team and an Orientation leader, and has served on the Board of Trustees Finance and Facilities Committee, the Associate Vice President for Admission Search Committee, the Student Life Committee, the Orientation Planning Committee, and the Presidential Inauguration Academic Subcommittee. Elena has also worked with prospective students and families in the Office of Admission. In 2015 Elena studied in Malaysian Borneo during a Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) field course, and with Summer Research Grant funding studied the impacts of cultural tourism on indigeneity. She studied for a semester in Madagascar with the School for International Training, researching the impact of wood-fuel and alternative-fuel cook stoves in rural areas. She presented her research projects at the Society for Applied Anthropology’s annual conferences in 2016 and 2017, and in 2016 her Madagascar research was awarded second place in the Society for Applied Anthropology's Peter K. New Award paper competition, an award traditionally conferred upon graduate level theses and dissertations. Elena’s Commencement address is titled, “Looking Back and Moving Forward.

Academic Convocation takes place on Saturday, May 13, at 2 p.m. in Schneebeck Concert Hall. Puget Sound’s 125th Commencement Ceremony will convene on Sunday, May 14, at 2 p.m.

Please join with me in congratulating and expressing appreciation to Rachel, Elena, and Professor Breitenbach.


Isiaah Crawford, Ph.D. | President