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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.

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.