Shortly before Spring break, the College announced Melanne Verveer, the first U.S. ambassador at-large for women’s rights, will be the speaker at the this year’s commencement for the class of 2013.

Verveer is responsible for coordinating foreign policy activities that relate to the political, economic, and social advancement of women around the world. She has been featured in Forbes’ “The 5 Most Powerful Women Changing The World In Politics And Public Policy’ and is the first person to ever hold this position, which is the first of its kind in the Department of State.

“I am thrilled to be F&M’s commencement speaker,” Verveer said. “F&M is an institution recognized for its excellence, academic rigor, achievements of its students, and its commitment to public service.”

On the thread of moving out into the real world and facing issues on campus and beyond, Verveer will be talking about her area of expertise: women’s rights and discrimination at large.

“Women all over the world are struggling to have their rights protected and for equal opportunity — in some places it’s a struggle for access to education and health care or the right to fully participate in the economic and political life of their societies, to have their legal rights and to be free from violence,” Verveer said. “No matter where women live they are still on a journey for equality.”

This theme carries over to the soon-to-be graduates in the fact that they are the ones moving forward to enact the changes needed to even out the inequalities based on gender.

“There has been progress, but that progress is uneven,” Verveer said. “There are many issues and challenges that need to be addressed, and college students can and should participate in all the ways they can — men and women — to be champions for women’s rights and human rights both at home and around the world. There are many ways to be engaged today and I have every confidence that the students at F&M will be change-makers. Remember what Gandhi said: ‘We have to be the change we want to see in the world.’”

As part of coming to F&M as the commencement speaker, Verveer is also being awarded an honorary degree from the

“An honorary degree is an academic degree awarded to an individual without that individual having completed the usual requirements for the degree and serves as public recognition of the achievements and merit of the awardee,” said Michael Anderson, professor of psychology and co-chair of the honorary degree committee. “Recipients are nominated by members of the College community and discussed in detail by the committee. The committee proceeds by consensus and attempts to identify people with exceptional merit who will serve as models for our students.”

Since the degrees are only given out sparsely, they are only to those individuals who have proven themselves through impressive résumés.

As former Chief of Staff to First Lady Hillary Clinton and the chair and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership, an organization to support women’s leadership, not to mention her long list of accomplishments as ambassador, Verveer is deemed more than eligible for the degree.

“We believe Ambassador Verveer’s biography speaks for itself and requires no special highlighting,” Anderson said.

“I personally expect her activism and achievements across a number of areas will be of great interest to our graduates and hope she, along with the rest of the candidates for honorary degrees, will be an inspiration for them.”

Verveer will serve as the keynote speaker at commencement May 11 and hopes to leave a lasting impression with the graduating seniors.

“I hope I can leave the graduates with some words of inspiration as they go forward to write the next chapters in their lives,” Verveer said.

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