Institutional News

Playwright, Screenwriter, and Director Sofia Alvarez ’07 to Deliver 2023 Commencement Address

Bennington College is pleased to announce that playwright, screenwriter, and director Sofia Alvarez '07 will address the class of 2023 at Commencement at 10:00 am on Saturday, June 3.

Image of Sofia Alvarez

In addition, the faculty speaker will be Professor of Art History J. Vanessa Lyon. The senior student speaker will be Gianna Rodriguez ’23.

“In the Fall of 2003 I arrived at Bennington College as a freshman,” recalled Alvarez. “I am honored to return twenty years later to serve as the commencement speaker for the class of 2023. Bennington College is a one-of-a-kind institution. No matter one's graduation year, fellow alumni share a unique perspective and understanding. I am thrilled to welcome the class of 2023 into our community of life past Bennington and to watch them thrive.”

Alvarez will address the 88th graduating class at the conferring of degrees at 10:00 am Saturday, June 3. The student speaker will address the class at a Senior dinner on Friday, June 2, and the faculty speaker will address the community at both events. The Friday evening addresses and the Saturday Commencement ceremony will be livestreamed from a link on

Sofia Alvarez is best known for writing the screenplays for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and To All the Boys 2: P.S. I Still Love You based on Jenny Han’s novels of the same name. In 2018 she was named one of Variety Magazine’s ten screenwriters to watch. Her directorial debut, Along for the Ride, an adaptation of Sarah Dessen’s bestselling novel, for which she also wrote the screenplay, was released on Netflix in May 2022. 

Her work in television includes the first two seasons of Man Seeking Woman (FXX) and the first season of Sirens (USA). Her plays include KILL CORP (The Warehouse Theater, 2022),  NYLON (BTP / Theaterlab, 2019), Panelists (Dorset Theater Festival Pipeline Series, 2019), Friend Art (Second Stage Uptown, 2016), Between Us Chickens (SCR / EST LA, 2011) and The Fish Bowl (Juilliard, 2010) among others. 

With composer Daniel Roland Tierney, she wrote a musical adaptation of William Steig’s classic children’s book, Amos & Boris, which premiered at South Coast Rep in 2018. She is an alumna of the Ars Nova Playgroup, Primary Stages' Dorothy Streslin New American Writer's Group, and the New Georges' Jam. In addition to being a graduate of Bennington, she is a graduate of The Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program. She teaches screenwriting at NYU Tisch and has taught playwriting at ESPA. She has served as a panelist for the Austin Film Festival and the National Endowment for the Arts.

We are thrilled that Sofia Alvarez will return to Bennington to give the commencement speech this June after studying literature and theater here,” said Bennington College President Laura Walker. “Her career as a talented, empathetic, and bold screenwriter is inspiring to the students, faculty, staff, and families who will be celebrating the graduation of the class of 2023.”

This year’s faculty speaker will be Professor of Art History J. Vanessa Lyon. Lyon teaches the histories of art with a focus on gender, sexuality, historiography, Critical Race Theory, and post/colonial relationships in Spanish, Flemish and Transatlantic visual culture (circa 1400–1850). A Fulbright scholar, Lyon is a former fellow of the Yale Center for British Art, the Huntington Library, and Yale’s Lewis Walpole Library, among others. She is the author of Figuring Faith and Female Power in the Art of Rubens (Amsterdam UP, 2020), and her studies of early modern art, gender, religion, and race appear in The Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art, Word & Image, Art History, and elsewhere. 

Lyon began writing fiction in 2020; her third novel, Lush Lives, published by Roxane Gay Books/Grove Atlantic releases in summer 2023. Lyon holds an MA and PhD in the history of art from UC Berkeley and an MA in religious studies from the Iliff School of Theology. Vanessa joined the Bennington faculty in 2016.

The 2023 Senior Speaker will be Gianna Rodriguez ’23. Rodriguez studies biology and writing at Bennington. Her senior work in the sciences focuses on endocrine research and the quantification of stress/fear hormones in mammalian blood. She plans to conduct forensic psychiatric research at the University of Edinburgh after graduation