Abdimalik “Abdi” Hassan ’23 will soon be moving from William & Mary’s campus to Google’s in San Francisco, where he interned the last two summers.
But before he switches coasts, he wants to inspire his classmates the way that they have inspired him over the past four years. He’ll have that opportunity on May 19 when he serves as the university’s student Commencement speaker.
The ticketed event, which begins as at 7 p.m. in Zable Stadium, will also feature a keynote address from comedian, writer and actor Patton Oswalt ’91.
“My speech is mainly about community and belonging at W&M,” Hassan said in an email. “I know this may not always be a universal experience for everyone, it wasn’t always so for me, but I sincerely hope students can reflect on their time here and be proud of their place in the community we’ve carved out with one another.”
Belonging, which is one of W&M’s core values, is an important topic to Hassan, a Muslim and Somali American who immigrated to Fairfax, Virginia. He is also passionate about education, which led him to volunteering with James Blair Middle School and participating in the W&M Washington Center’s “Urban Education” course.
A computer science major at William & Mary with a minor in finance, he is the founder of the financial services startup Platinum, which won the Alan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center’s fall 2022 Rocket Pitch Faceoff. In the midst of his academic pursuits and community involvement, Hassan also served as co-chair of W&M’s undergraduate student conduct council at W&M.
Hassan said he entered the competition to be this year’s student speaker at Commencement because he wanted to share “a story and a message” with his fellow graduates.
“The story and message span the entire four-year arc of my time at William & Mary and include wisdom and perspective I’ve drawn from this campus and student body, past and present,” he said. “Naturally, I wanted to package this and share it back with the folks who gave it to me in the first place, all the while adding my own voice to it. Beyond this, I also just enjoy sharing wisdom and hoped I might be able to inspire the student body in the same way they’ve inspired me all these years.”
With Commencement weekend quickly approaching, Hassan said he is looking forward to many parts of the experience, including recreating some of his favorite W&M photos.
“This will also be the first time some of my guests have visited, and I can’t wait to show them the places behind some of the stories I’ve shared with them,” he said. “Most of all, though, I’m looking forward to having all my classmates in one place for one last weekend of celebration.”
Hassan “transformed dramatically” and was able to exceed his own expectations during his time at W&M, he said. As he prepares for the next phase of life, he will take with him from his time at W&M “the seemingly childish belief that I can accomplish even those things I’m afraid to pursue,” he said. “I’ll also do my best not to put myself into a box or constrain my identity, especially considering how much it’s evolved over these four years.”
Erin Jay, Senior Associate Director of University News