Augustana Student Speaker Wants Fellow Classmates to Leave 2024 Commencement Feeling ‘Empowered’

By Jill Wilson | May 17, 2024
JayVian Viking Days Royalty 2023

JaVian Farr ‘24, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in biology, found out that he was chosen as Augustana’s 2024 Commencement speaker on his birthday.


JayVian Diversity Summit“Honestly, it was a whirlwind of emotions,” said Farr. “It’s an incredible honor, and I am truly humbled by being selected. At Augustana, there are so many worthy candidates, and I am extremely grateful to have been chosen.”

Farr, of Racine, Wisconsin, was an all-conference defensive back for Viking Football — helping the team win two Northern Sun Intercollegiate Championships (NSIC) and will join the team again in the fall. Farr was also a student dispatcher for Campus Safety, member of the Pre-Med Club and named a 2023 Viking Days Royal by his peers during Augustana’s 100 years of homecoming celebration.  

In addition, Farr served as senator for the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Diversity, Equity & Social Justice Committee chair for the Augustana Student Association (ASA), where he was tasked with planning and organizing the third annual Diversity Summit. Farr served as a Viking Advisor (VA) for three years — earning the Programmer of the Year Award in 2021-22 and Tracy Riddle Tightrope Award in 2023-24, which is presented to a VA who best balances and navigates through adversity. 

ASA Diversity, Equity & Social Justice Committee

And, how to navigate through adversity is what Farr hopes to convey to his fellow classmates on Saturday, May 18, at Kirkeby-Over Stadium — a place he’s had to do a lot of that. In front of hundreds of his peers and their family members and friends, Farr will give his speech entitled, “Empowered by Adversity: Crafting our Future Amidst Uncertainty.”

JayVian Homecoming Coronation

“I want people to leave commencement feeling empowered. I want people to leave commencement knowing that no matter the trials and tribulations that we have faced in our lives or the obstacles that may arise in our futures, we will get through it. I want people to realize that having uncomfortable conversations, immersing yourself in uncomfortable environments, is how you grow. You cannot grow in your comfort zone,” Farr said. 

"I want people to reflect on the challenges and rewards of our college years. We have learned so much about the importance of perseverance and commitment, navigating through uncertainties of a daunting pandemic and adapting to new norms. I want people to remember that success is not like instant oatmeal; it’s not going to happen that way all of the time, even if it’s portrayed on social media like it is. I want people to remember that comparison is the thief of joy.”

Farr explained that, at one point, he nearly left the university, but a conversation in March 2022 with Viking Football Head Coach Jerry Olszewski and Defensive Coordinator Mark Sipple changed his life. He said the two biggest takeaways from that conversation are the two things he wants people to take away from his speech.


“No. 1, count your blessings, not your problems, as there is always someone out there who has it worse than you do. No. 2, be the change that you want to see. If you do those things, as well as try your best to be your best, life will bless you with positivity, prosperity and peace,” Farr explained.


JayVian Key to the CityFarr said his parents have no clue that he is the commencement speaker … until now … or until they arrive at the event on Saturday.


“I can’t wait for their reaction!” said Farr.


Farr is on the pre-medicine track and plans to stay at Augustana to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA).


“I am adding an MBA so that I can leave Augustana with an advanced degree, especially with the awesome 4+1 program that the university offers, which is especially enticing for student-athletes staying for their fifth year in their respective sports. As far as what I want to do afterward, I will either pursue medicine or I will pivot and do something in perhaps health care administration, business analytics — something of that nature.”

For more information on Augustana’s 2024 Commencement, visit

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