Three UChicago students to address classmates as 2021 Class Day speakers

Rodrigo Estrada, Emily Robb and Justine Shih selected to speak in June 11 virtual celebration

On June 11, University of Chicago fourth-year students Rodrigo Estrada, Emily Robb and Justine Shih will deliver remarks to their fellow graduates as part of the undergraduate College’s fifth annual Class Day ceremony.

Each year, three students are selected to speak at Class Day, a tradition that celebrates the accomplishments of the College’s graduating class. Class Day 2021 will take place this year as a virtual event and will be webcast on the Convocation website starting at 2 p.m. CDT. The celebration also will feature a keynote address from U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, AB’04, and the presentation of College awards.

Rodrigo Estrada

Rodrigo Estrada hails from the rural outskirts of El Paso, Texas, and will graduate with a bachelor’s in economics and a master's in international relations. During his time in the College, Estrada actively engaged the broader community as community outreach director for the South Side Free Music Program and as youth engagement lead for the Illinois Region of the American Red Cross. He was a member of the Maroon Key Society, Odyssey Ambassadors Committee and the American Red Cross National Youth Council. 

Estrada’s speech centers on the theme of building bridges and highlights the many ways in which the Class of 2021 has created connections, both in-person and virtual. He emphasizes that the College community is only as strong as the connections within it. 

“From working with the broader South Side community through student-led initiatives to linking ideas across the Core to better understand the human condition, our class has built bridges between people, ideas, and possibilities,” Estrada said. “In the face of growing divides, the task of building bridges across lines of difference and disagreement has never been more important.”

Before he heads to law school as a Truman Scholar, Estrada will take a gap year to support local COVID-19 economic recovery efforts as an economic development specialist for the Economic Development Administration under the Department of Commerce. 

Emily Robb

Emily Robb will graduate with a bachelor’s in philosophy and political science and a Chicago Studies Certificate. An Odyssey Scholar, Robb was a Jumpstart team leader with the Neighborhood Schools Project, TechTeam Mentor, consultant in the Small Business Growth Program at the Polsky Center and an intern at the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation. She also was a member of the Public Policy Leaders Program and Women in Law. 

Describing the undergraduate experience as a marathon without a map, Robb’s speech hopes to shed light on the common experiences at UChicago while also applauding individuals’ own unique journeys. As a celebration of the class that has lost so much, Robb aims to remind the Class of 2021 to think about what they have found along the way through reflections on her own adventure.

“My speech is first and foremost inspired by my mom and all the sacrifices she has made for me to make it through UChicago. I wouldn't have made it this far without her encouragement, support and fantastic sense of humor,” said Robb, who is from Los Angeles. “I'd also say my speech is a love letter to my friends and the crazy unique paths we've all forged for ourselves throughout the past four years.”

After graduation, Robb will be moving to New York to work as a business analyst for a financial technology company.

Justine Shih

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Justine Shih will graduate with a bachelor’s in neuroscience and music. On campus, she participated in a variety of activities, including the UChicago Science Olympiad, University Symphony Orchestra, Taiwanese American Student Association and the Underground Collective. She also served as an Orientation Aide, conducted research in a neurobiology lab on campus and helped plan the Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium as part of the Inter-School Board.

Shih’s speech looks at the last four years in the College and the importance of remembering that sometimes the means are just as important as the end. Shih shares that UChicago students are endowed by the strength they’ve found and relationships they’ve made during their time in the College as they step into a world that is even bigger.

“As I was reflecting on my time in the College, I was thinking of how these journeys are often imperfect. We go through different series of obstacles to make it through these four years,” said Shih. “I wanted to reframe these struggles into something we can look back fondly on and be proud of conquering.”

After graduation, Shih will pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience at Duke University as a National Science Foundation Fellow.

—This story first appeared on the University of Chicago College website