Convocation speaker aimed to encourage students


Omar Shaban’s Convocation submission was far more complicated than he expected.

UI freshman Shaban relied on a friend to help him make the application video, but he was disappointed when he saw the final product.

After two failed attempts, a late night on campus, and just before the deadline, he submitted his final video.

In his video, Shaban was featured in front of the Old Capitol, enthusiastically describing how Iowa is his dream school, how he is the first in his family to go to college, and what an honor it would be to be this year’s convocation speaker.

When Shaban got the call announcing he had earned the honor of being the 2014 Convocation speaker, he was sitting at Dairy Queen with his aunt, saying he didn’t think he would win.

“It was just super weird how we were talking about how I might not win, and then BAM — I got the call, and it was just super awesome,” he said.

Shaban’s passion for public speaking is what furthered his determination to work to get the video submission in on time.

Though he is majoring in human physiology and plans to eventually become a surgeon, he has always been interested in public speaking.

“I’ve always liked it,” he said. “It comes naturally; I just enjoy speaking to people.”

“Everyone was really struck by Omar’s personality,” said Lindon Larson, the director of creative services at the UI and a member of the committee that reviews all convocation-speaker submissions. “We thought he would be a great person to represent the class. He seems to be a confident and engaging speaker.”

Shaban said he feels very comfortable in front of lots of people.

Though he won’t have the advantage of making connections in the dorms because he will commute from home, he said he is not nervous at all.

“I like to meet new people and do new things,” he said. “I don’t mind the awkwardness. It’s not awkward to me.”

Father Gaber Shaban said Omar’s outgoing personality has affected the whole family.

“He’s the oldest son, so he’s the first one who came to us [so] we worried about him a lot,” Gaber Shaban said. “Whatever he does, he’ll be the role model for his brother and sister.”

Gaber Shaban said he is especially proud because he thinks the family members have come far since moving to the United States from Egypt when Omar was a child.

“I always give him freedom to decide what he wants to be,” Gaber Shaban said. “I cannot force him to do anything.”

Previously, Omar Shaban had only spoken in front of crowds of roughly 500 people. This time, however, the crowd was much larger as he spoke words of wisdom to the Hawkeyes.

“With every new chapter comes with it a new beginning,” he said. “We are all here for a reason. So today, let’s close the door to our past and open the door to our future.”

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