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April 25, 2024

Michael Lawrence ’98 to be Simon’s Rock 2024 Commencement Speaker

Michael LawrenceSimon’s Rock alum Michael Lawrence will address graduates at the 55th Commencement ceremony of Bard College at Simon’s Rock on Saturday, May 18, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. The ceremony will be held in person and live-streamed for those unable to attend.

A self-proclaimed ‘word nerd’ working at the intersection of language, design, and technology, Lawrence received his BA from Simon’s Rock in 2002 (summa cum laude), building a concentration that combined cultural studies, critical theory, linguistics, art history, and graphic design — ideal preparation for his current job in the relatively new fields of content design and UX writing, which did not exist at the time.

He has worked with product and brand design teams at Meta, Indeed, and eBay, and offered freelance naming and content strategy for a number of creative entrepreneurs. His work allows him to craft the language that appears in apps and web interfaces to make digital products more useful, usable, and inclusive. Success requires careful attention to the metaphors and narratives people use to make sense of new technology, as well as close partnership with software engineers, user researchers, visual designers, translators, marketers, and policy experts.

After beginning his career in academia, Lawrence transitioned into industry. He served on the support staff of the first Bard High School Early College before going on to earn a PhD in rhetorical theory and criticism from the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. His dissertation explored discourses of 9/11 memorialization and national identity by examining the neoliberal epideictic practice of publicly reciting and reprinting the long list of names of the dead. The project earned the top dissertation award from the National Communication Association’s Critical Cultural Studies Division. He served on the faculty of Columbia College Chicago as a full-time lecturer in liberal arts & sciences, and acting program director for the college’s First-Year Seminar program. He has also taught numerous courses on contemporary media and culture, as well as foundational courses in communication and critical thinking skills.

He continues to work with college students, currently co-teaching an interdisciplinary seminar at the University of San Francisco on generative AI and the question of human creativity.

Simon’s Rock looks forward to honoring this year's graduating students. Read more details about Simon’s Rock Commencement here.