Acclaimed actress and emerging producer and writer Constance Wu – known for roles in the barrier-breaking film “Crazy Rich Asians” and series “Fresh Off the Boat” – will give the keynote address at Senior Convocation, Wednesday, May 25, at noon in Barton Hall.
The student-run 2022 Convocation Committee announced the selection on April 21. The committee used a survey of the graduating class to help make its choice.
“The committee at its core is a representative of our entire class, and it was important to us that we stood by that responsibility,” said committee member Isabella Ogbolumani ’22. “The class wanted a speaker who was well-known, funny and inspiring. Constance Wu is such a great fit because she checks all those boxes.”
In-person attendance at this year’s Convocation will be limited to graduating undergraduate seniors; extra space will be granted to graduating graduate and professional students. The event will also take place during Senior Days rather than on Commencement Weekend, reflecting a shift in focus from a larger audience – which in previous years included families and the public – to the undergraduate students.
While COVID-19 was a contributing factor for these changes, organizers saw this year as an opportunity to make the event more intimate and student-centered. Students will hear from Wu, Cornell leadership, the convocation committee chair, a student poet and guest, as well as student organizations and musical groups.
The event will be livestreamed on CornellCast. Commencement will take place the following Saturday, May 28, and will be split into two ceremonies.
“The decision to have a students-only convocation significantly altered the scale and nature of the event we had in mind,” said committee chair Lotoya Francis ’22. “Thankfully, we were able to pivot and readjust while staying true to our initial values.
“Some of our earliest meetings consisted of us sitting in a circle and being vulnerable about what graduating from Cornell means to us and our families,” Francis said. “We laughed and cried and made it a priority to choose a speaker that would honor the sentiments we shared. We considered those of us in the class who come from immigrant families. We considered the identities of speakers we’ve had in the past and asked ourselves who is missing. We asked what our class needed after the wild college experience we’ve had. We wanted to prioritize inspiration and fun.”
Wu’s starring role on “Fresh off the Boat” earned her multiple nominations from the Critics’ Choice Association for Best Actress in a Comedy Series and a spot on Time Magazine’s 2017 list of “100 Most Influential People.” Airing from 2015 to 2020, the show was the first in more than 20 years to center on an Asian-American family and, in 2018, made history as the first TV show led by Asian-Americans to ever reach syndication.
“Crazy Rich Asians” was the first studio movie in more than 25 years to star an Asian-American woman; released in 2018, it was a runaway hit, becoming the most successful studio romantic comedy in close to a decade. Wu received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, a Critics’ Choice nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy, and a Screen Actors’ Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, among other accolades.
Wu has numerous additional acting credits, including the films “I Was a Simple Man,” “Hustlers,” “Crow: The Legend,” “The Feels,” “Sound of My Voice,” “The Architect,” “Stephanie Daley” and the series “Solos.” She has spoken candidly about the pressures and complexities of representing Asian-Americans in an industry that has historically omitted the lives and experiences of minority groups.
Wu will star in a new thriller series, “The Terminal List,” alongside Chris Pratt and Taylor Kitsch, debuting July 1, and a film, “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile,” with Javier Bardem and Winslow Fegley, slated for release this fall.
In addition to acting, Wu has recently launched a production venture with Justine Jones; they are collaborating with the studio Entertainment One to develop and produce scripted series. Simon & Schuster will also publish Wu’s memoir in essays, “Making a Scene,” in October.
Wu holds a BFA in acting from the State University of New York at Purchase’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film.