Student speaker reflects on love of collegiate journey

This feature was originally written and posted by UGA Today, and can also be found on the UGA Today website

Suwanee native Michael Banks to speak at fall 2022 Commencement on Dec. 16

Throughout his life, Michael Banks has embraced varied interests and passions. And that didn’t change during his time at the University of Georgia.

Banks is a classically trained singer, an open water swimmer who once dreamed of swimming the English Channel and he is set to graduate with a double major and double minor.

While his path has changed from his first days as a freshman, Banks does not regret the journey. In fact, as student speaker for the fall 2022 undergraduate Commencement, he plans to share his affection for it.

“The big theme of my speech is falling in love, which might sound cheesy, but it’s about joy in the journey more than anything,” said Banks, a Jere W. Morehead Honors College student from Suwanee.

Throughout his UGA career, Banks has changed majors, added minors and explored multiple schools and colleges. He will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and international affairs, minors in anthropology and business, and a certificate in global studies.

“I really value interdisciplinary studies and being a multidimensional thinker,” said Banks. “I’ve gotten to learn a lot across four very different colleges here at UGA, and I’ve seen that trickle into how I write as a journalist, how I look at my international affairs classes. Being able to pursue that passion across different avenues and different lenses has made me a more well-rounded global citizen.”

A path forward

During his time at UGA, Banks sought guidance from peers and instructors that helped lead him down the right path.

“I kind of leap-frogged around a little bit,” Banks said. “When I started out in international affairs coming into UGA, I had the lofty goal of thinking I was going to be an ambassador.”

That changed when Banks realized his passion for international affairs came from a love of understanding different cultures, as opposed to the passion for politics some of his classmates exhibited.

His professor, Loch Johnson, suggested he might prefer anthropology, so he added it as a double major.

As a sophomore, the COVID-19 pandemic also changed his academic path when Banks paused to consider what he really wanted to study. He pulled an all-nighter to find a major or curriculum that encompasses many of his interests, and he landed on journalism.

His anthropology major transformed into a minor, and Banks focused on journalism, communications and digital media at Grady.

“I’m building a lot of transferrable skills—writing on a deadline for different audiences, synthesizing large amounts of information, learning about Adobe and web development,” Banks said. “And I’m learning all of this while I cover politics and social justice for Grady Newssource. And I think it has been, probably, one of the best decisions I’ve made in my college career.”

A world of opportunity

Banks starts a job in Deloitte’s Government & Public Services practice in Atlanta next spring, but he’s thankful for the time he had in Athens.

“Georgia felt like home starting at orientation,” Banks said. “The first person I met, and probably my best friend to this day, helped mold some of the activities and groups I took part in. She’s a Turkish citizen, and a lot of our friendship is formed on critical conversations about culture and identity, and that motivated me to pursue a very international experience, even in Athens.”

He built on his education through a number of internships—at the United Nations Foundation, McKinsey & Company and the State Department—as well as through experiential learning and student organizations.

He is a Grady ambassador, a 2022 Cox-SABEW Fellow and former president of the Dean William Tate Honors Society. He was also part of the Indian Cultural Exchange, sang with the African American Choral Ensemble and co-directed a first-year program through UGA’s Student Government Association.

“I look at my closest friends from college and not one of them has the same set of identities or lived experiences,” Banks said. “And having that diversity of perspectives has been so important in my life—I definitely recommend taking advantage of all of the international and interdisciplinary experiences that UGA has to offer.”

And as he addresses his peers on Dec. 16, he’ll also address a UGA alumnus celebrating four decades since graduation—his father.

“It’ll be the 40-year anniversary of my dad’s graduation this December, which is really sweet,” Banks said. “He graduated in the fall of ’82, and when I was auditioning to be student speaker, I knew it would be really special if I was selected.”

Richman named senior speaker at Grady Convocation, Banks named UGA Commencement student speaker

Lindsay Richman sits at a desk during her internship with Seacrest Studios.
From January to June 2022, Richman worked as a production intern for Seacrest Studios. (Photo: Submitted)

Lindsay Richman, a senior public relations major from Alpharetta, Georgia, has been named the senior speaker during the fall 2022 Grady College Convocation, while her peer Michael Banks, a senior journalism major and Grady College Ambassador from Suwanee, Georgia, has been named the University of Georgia student speaker for the fall 2022 undergraduate commencement ceremony. 

Richman will graduate this December with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a minor in Spanish. She is a Dean’s List and Hope Scholarship recipient.

Most recently, Richman worked as an internal communications intern at Inspire Brands, where she spearheaded Buffalo Wild Wings’ weekly internal newsletters and pitched, wrote and edited content for internal stakeholders, among other tasks. Before that, Richman was a production intern at Ryan Seacrest Studios, interned for a congressional campaign and wrote for The Red & Black. 

Richman also serves as an executive board member at The American Cancer Society at UGA. 

Michael Banks stands on front of the fountain on North Campus.
Banks has interned with both the United Nations Foundation and the U.S. Department of State. (Photo: Submitted)

Banks, a Jere W. Morehead Honors College student, will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s degree in international affairs. He also completed a certificate in global studies and minors in anthropology and business. 

Currently, Banks is working as a virtual foreign service intern for the U.S. Department of State. Previously, Banks interned with the United Nations Foundation, McKinsey & Company and Historic Athens, among other companies and organizations. 

Grady Fall 2022 Convocation will take place on Dec. 15 in the Fine Arts Theatre, at 255 Baldwin St. Doors will open at 1:30 p.m. for the ceremony that starts at 2 p.m. Graduates will have their names read in front of family, friends, faculty and staff as they walk across stage at the Fine Arts Theatre. Following the ceremony, graduates and guests will be invited over to Grady College’s Schnitzer Family Media Lawn for a reception starting at 3 p.m. More information is available hereGraduating students planning to attend the convocation need to register here no later than Dec. 6, 2022.

The UGA Fall 2022 Commencement ceremony will occur on Dec. 16 at Stegeman Coliseum, 100 Smith St. The undergraduate ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. The graduate ceremony starts at 2:30 p.m. More information is available here.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Michael Banks

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study? 

I would not be in Grady had it not been for an early pandemic existential crisis in Spring 2020. I realized one night that I wanted to explore my passions for multiculturalism & storytelling while gaining some of the hard skills only a Grady degree could provide. Some of my most inspiring friends and peers at UGA were already in Grady, and having conversations with them about how positive their experiences had been really reinforced the idea to take a leap of faith and pursue a degree in journalism. 

What are you passionate about? 

In one world, multiculturalism. I’ve always had a curiosity for the world to gain a deeper understanding and empath for people across cultures. I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to take that a step further to interact with important groups on this campus to advocate for DEI initiatives, and that passion has led me to gravitate toward stories in culture that elevate diverse media perspectives and creators.

What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA? 

I’ve walked away from every interaction with a professor in the journalism department changed for the better, so it’s hard for me to just cite one as having the biggest impact.  Two student mentors of mine are Willie Daniely and Lauren Swenson, both of whom were students in Newsource my first semester volunteering, and both taught me so much from their experiences within the college and how versatile a Grady education can be.  

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

I used to be an open-water swimmer and with plans to swim the English Channel after graduation, but some of my fitness goals changed. I’m also a classically trained singer. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience? 

I got to attend a special screening of the 60th Anniversary of Desegregation at UGA documentary that was entirely reported on, filmed and produced by Grady students. I was awe-inspired to see journalism that was elevating such an important story in Athens and UGA history, and I walked away excited at the endless possibilities and ways I could use my Grady education. 

What are you planning to do after graduation? 

I would love to work as a communications associate internationally or for a global-oriented brand or company. Digital Design with Amanda Bright has also been my absolute favorite class at UGA and exposed me to technology and its applications to journalism, which has led to my interest in product design as a career that combines my journalism education with a role in the tech industry. 

What is your favorite app or social media channel and why? 

Spotify! I have a very diverse music taste and the way their user experience is set up makes it very easy to explore artists outside of the U.S. and outside my typical genres. I also love when design meets technology, so Spotify Wrapped is so cool to me in that it takes people’s data to create fun, engaging and digestible data visualizations on people’s listening experiences. 

Where is your favorite place on campus and why? 

The Hall of Nations in Memorial Hall! There’s something kind of awe-inspiring getting to study under so many national flags. The Office of International Student Life and Pride Center are also located there, and they do some critical work and put on beautiful programming to support students across backgrounds. 

Who is your professional hero? 

Too many. In broadcast, Seth Doane or David Muir. Doane is a CBS foreign correspondent based out of Rome, and Muir is the ABC World News anchor. Both are journalists whose careers have been shaped by international experiences and coverage of international topics. 

What has been your proudest moment in the past year? 

I was fortunate enough to represent the College on UGA’s Homecoming Court! So many of my family and friends came out to share in that experience with me, and getting the opportunity to walk my mother on the field is once in a lifetime. It was a testament to my hard work in my time at Georgia and reminded me I have stellar people in my corner.