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Emory College orator Amelia Andujar to highlight the Class of 2024’s unique paths
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Student Amelia Andujar has been named the Emory College orator for the 2024 Commencement. Andjuar plans to highlight the unique experiences and paths her class has taken to create space for themselves and each other.

— Photo by Kay Hinton, Emory Photo/Video.

As the 2024 Emory College class orator, Amelia Andujar is tasked with encouraging the next steps for a class like no other in the university’s 188-year history.

Entering college in fall 2020, these students spent their first year as virtually the only undergraduates on campus. They became attuned to detecting smiles hidden behind masks and adept at decoding body language during Zoom movie nights and online classes alike.

Commencement will be the first time many experience a graduation ceremony since many high schools canceled programs in 2020. They will share Emory Commencement with the same close friends they met that first semester.

The pandemic didn’t create those bonds, Andujar says. A shared love — of Emory and of each other —  did.

“As a class, we value community in such a different way,” she says. “Your friends were all you had, and everyone understood we were making something out of nothing.”

Andujar’s reflection on the unique opportunities to find meaningful relationships and space at Emory, at a time when so much of the world was uncertain, won over the committee of graduating seniors, faculty and staff who selected her from five finalists as the sole student speaker during the Emory College of Arts and Sciences’ diploma ceremony.

Her adoration for Emory began before she arrived. Born in Pittsburgh, Andujar primarily lived in the Dominican Republic with her mother since elementary school. She traveled to Atlanta for extended visits with her father, making Georgia something of a second home.

The immediate sense of belonging at Emory came from another student’s outreach. In fall 2020, fellow Dominican Ana Cristina Perez 24C was staying in the Dominican Republic, but still reached out to a dozen Spanish-speaking first-year Emory students, hoping to connect online.

Zoom meetings shifted to in-person hangouts the next spring. Despite a range of majors and interests, the group remains close enough for impromptu kickball games and dinners.

“She assembled us like the Avengers,” Andujar says of Perez, an engineering science and chemistry major and varsity player on Emory’s women’s tennis team. “It helped me realize that the only way to push through the ‘unprecedented times’ was to find and carve out spaces and connections with each other.”

Andujar took the lesson to heart, building community for others at the Center for Women at Emory, where she was hired as a student programming assistant during her second week on campus. She developed a digital community during her first year, making space for others as it had been created for her.

She also created a social media strategy and branding for the center while tackling an effort with Paula Figueroa 24C to revive La Terraza, a group for Latina/e students.

The group has become a vibrant part of the Center for Women due to Andujar’s leadership and willingness to listen to what a broad swath of students found culturally relevant, says center director Chanel Craft Tanner.

“It is truly a testament to Amelia, to have developed a truly new community by being authentic and really listening to people,” Tanner says. “She looks on the margins and makes sure those people have a voice. Her mother gave her space to voice her opinions, and she wants that for everyone.”

A double major in sociology and film and media, Andujar remained committed to the center while conducting both qualitative and quantitative undergraduate research projects. She recently earned highest honors on her senior thesis, analyzing the legitimation processes of Dominican alternative musicians locally and abroad.

Last year, she worked with Emory sociologist Cassidy Puckett on an Emory AI.Humanity project conducting a systemic review of racial biases baked into near-infrared medical technology, such as forehead thermometers.

She will further delve into questions of digital inequality while pursuing a master’s degree in global social and political thought next fall at the University of St Andrews in Scotland as one of Emory’s Robert T. Jones Scholars.

First, though, her family and her childhood best friend, Maria Rodriguez, will be on hand to hear her remind fellow graduates to appreciate how their stories have unfolded together.

She also had one last “Emory side quest”: running the TNT dance team’s performance at the World of Dance on April 27.

She is in her second year as captain of the team, having auditioned for the previously all-male crew her sophomore year. TNT is now fully co-ed, and Andujar cites last year’s showcase as her favorite memory of her Emory tenure.

“I tapped into campus life as much as I could. I think we all did, and that’s what made these years so unique,” Andujar says. “Emory has allowed us to see the opportunities that come from sharing these little lifetimes and connections with each other.”

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