The College has announced that this year's graduation commencement speaker will be comedian, actress, author, TV correspondent and YouTube personality Grace Helbig, who is also an alumna of the school. Thus far, this announcement has been met with a mostly positive response by students who believe Helbig will be a fun, relatable and inspiring speaker with good advice for Ramapo's outgoing students.
"I know it's going to be really hilarious and inspiring," said senior Nick Walsh. "She's really cool and so funny and, as a theater person, it's really cool to see someone who's a performer working out there and also being our commencement speaker."
According to Stephen Hudik, assistant vice president of communications and public relations, Helbig was one of the people suggested by the Ramapo community to be the 2015 commencement speaker.
"Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to submit suggestions for commencement speakers," Hudik said of the process of picking a commencement speaker. "Members of the Class of 2015 included Grace Helbig ’07 among their nominees. All names are shared with the President’s Cabinet for a final decision and to extend an invitation to potential speakers."
Helbig graduated from Ramapo College in 2007, and has since gone on to become very successful as a result of her highly popular YouTube channel, DailyGrace, which originated as a web series on the online comedy network My Damn Channel. The DailyGrace YouTube channel, which Helbig retired from last year, and which is now operated by the My Damn Channel Company, has over 2.1 million subscribers and over 255 million accumulated views. Helbig's current channel, It'sGrace, also has over 2.1 million subscribers and over 79 million accumulated views.
"I've watched DailyGrace before. I think she's clever, I think she's a pretty talented actress and I think she's a good writer," said senior Sean Keough. "And I think all in all, what's kind of inspiring about her is just someone who had a passion and a drive to do something, to create. She kind of just took it without a budget, did it herself, and now she's making money on it."
In addition to making her own comedic vlog-style web videos, Helbig has also acted in several popular web series, including "The Most Popular Girl in School" and "Epic Rap Battles of History," acted in films, like "Camp Takota," and was a correspondent on the technology and pop culture news show “Attack of the Show!” from 2011 until its cancellation in 2013. After dozens of other TV appearances, it was announced in January of this year that Helbig will star on her own talk show, “The Grace Helbig Show,” which is set to premiere this April on E!
"She's so funny. I was so excited," said senior Jacqui Marron. "I honestly didn't think that she was going to get picked because she's a YouTube personality – not that they're not as successful, but because they're more, I guess, new in pop culture and the school wouldn't necessarily know what it is."
Marron said she nominated Helbig to be the commencement speaker by filling out a form on the College's website.
"I'm really excited. I think she's going to give us some good wisdom, and she's hilarious, which is good for me because I'm a comedy actress, so I'll be hopefully picking her speech apart," Marron said.
This year's commencement will be in a new location from previous years, due to the closing of the Izod Center in East Rutherford this month. The Prudential Center in Newark will serve as the new venue, where Helbig will make her speech and outgoing seniors will celebrate their graduation.
However, seniors are not the only class excited about this year's commencement and Helbig's appearance.
Freshman Guthrie Morgan says she "definitely" will attend the commencement, mainly to celebrate the graduation of friends, but also to see Helbig, who she has been a fan of since before coming to Ramapo.
"She's actually how I heard about this school," said Morgan, who is from Massachusetts. "I think her work is really cool and I think she's a really inspiring person. I read her book and she has a lot of good advice – a lot of good pieces of knowledge, bits of wisdom."
Helbig's book, "Grace's Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-up," is a humorous self-help book targeted at those in the "Millennial" generation, which includes college students and recent college graduates. The book was published in October of last year and became a number one The New York Times bestseller.
Keough said Helbig's commencement speech is significant for the Ramapo community, especially communications majors like himself.
"She is an alumni, and she is not only an alumni, but she graduated from the school, from the program that I'm in; some of my professors even taught her," said Keough, who has a double concentration in digital filmmaking and writing. "And just that in it of itself feels kind of rewarding and important to me because it shows how Ramapo treats, one, its alumni, and two, the recognition that someone from my department, someone who went through the same things that I have, is now celebrating the success that I soon hope to enjoy as well.”