Student profile: Anna Chiu, commencement speaker

Randy Hazelton | The Free Press

Posted on April 28, 2014 in News
By matthewgraeff

USM Senior Anna Chiu, the student speaker at the USM commencement, hopes to inspire graduating students to keep USM values of inclusiveness and understanding in mind as they head out into the world.

Chiu is a health sciences major with a minor in biology. She transferred to USM from Simmons College, where she was a nursing student, in 2012.

For Chiu, that sentiment of inclusiveness and understanding is very important. “I won’t ever forget writing an article about depression once, and one guy emailed me and thanked me for speaking out about it because of its stigma. I was very touched and honored to have helped him,” she said, referring to her time as a writer and sports editor for the Free Press.

Chiu has fought her own battles with depression and hopes to help other students. “Nobody should be ashamed if they are feeling depressed. I’ve met the most caring students, professors and staff at USM, and honestly I’ve never felt more like myself than here,” Chiu said.

Chiu will give her speech at the USM commencement on May 10 at the Cumberland Civic Center.

Initially, Chiu struggled to find the words for her speech. “What helped me and got me to start writing was reminiscing on my USM experience and how I’ve changed since transferring here,” said Chiu, who submitted her speech a day later than the deadline.

“I don’t particularly like the idea of talking about myself because I think the duty of the commencement speaker is to represent the student body and showcase just how amazing we all are,” she said.

“I wanted a speech that was emotionally captivating yet powerful. I spent hours just sitting at my computer trying to think of something meaningful that I could write about,” Chiu said. Eventually she settled on the theme of personal identity and how USM can change its students.

In her speech, Chiu explains that she is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Her parents were poor , she said, and her father was forced to steal food and her mother did not own shoes until the age of 19. Her parents fled China to escape poverty and famine. “I was born and raised in Portland and even though I grew up poor, it blows my mind every time to think how much can change in just one generation. My parents probably never would’ve imagined that their children would one day prosper in America when they were our age.” Chiu hopes that her parents story will inspire the outgoing USM class and send a message of hope and inspire them to think about their own identity.

Chiu also has a word of advice for all the students at USM. “Honestly, just breathe. I know it’s simple but I think it’s true that we are our own worst critic. We need to remember to breathe and stay in the present moment and not be so hard on ourselves.”