A Glimpse of Graduation

Ana Tavares

Bachelor of Arts, double major Historical Studies and Literary Studies

Profile Photo of Ana TavaresFriends and family, faculty and staff: I would like to thank you all for joining the graduates of the class of fall 2008 as we cross the stage into the next phase of our lives. We would not be here today without the help of every one of you.

Graduates, please, thank all those who have supported you in this journey.

You know that saying “Save the best for last”? Well today it rings very true. Here, on December 20th at 3 p.m., we are some of the very last students to graduate in the year 2008.

This is just another symbol that our class is a special one. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “I know I’m pretty much amazing, but what makes this whole class so great?”

Officially, as of this semester, UT Dallas has broken the 15,000 student mark. With that many people around, it is hard to keep track of things. Not only that, but as one of the smartest student bodies in Texas, we tend to be a little more focused on our studies than most college students.

With these two factors combined, it is easy to see how you may not have realized the natural awesomeness of our graduating class.

But unlike many campuses, this is not a “melting pot” student body. Every one of us is unique; every one of us has a different story, a different set of goals and ambitions and a different outlook on life. At UT Dallas, we are embraced for this distinctiveness, rewarded for it.

Because this is a fall commencement, it is safe to say we did not all start out our time at UT Dallas together. Many of you may be transfers, some may be graduating a semester (or two ... or maybe even three) later than expected. And some of you may be graduating earlier than expected, eager to throw yourselves into the reality of the post-collegiate world.

But as we each cross the stage today and as we each get our handshake with Dr. Daniel, we are Comets for life.

These past few years have been unforgettable. Nationally, we witnessed much. Some of it required our strength, courage and support. As in 2005, when UT Dallas received transfer students from Katrina-devastated New Orleans, or last spring when we banded together to provide support for Virginia Tech following the devastating violence that occurred there. Much of what we saw was inspiring.

I spent this last semester in Washington, D.C., witnessing the beautiful chaos that was the most exciting election in my generation’s time. The youth movement that surged behind these candidates was truly inspiring. Never again will I accept the notion that my generation is apathetic. But then again, you do not have to be in D.C. to see that.

Here at UT Dallas, we made our own waves these past four years.

We got a new president, Dr. Daniel, who has done such amazing things already with the great potential stored on this incredible campus. We have seen new traditions sprout, like the fight song and, my personal favorite, not that I am biased or anything, the Spirit Rock. Oh, and please do not forget that we are the leading collegiate chess team, not only in the nation, but in the Western Hemisphere, and have been for two years now.

Within the past year, we have had two groundbreaking ceremonies, and the new buildings just keep coming. For those who haven’t yet, take your friends and family to the Mermaid Building. By the time we are done here, the light should be just right to make her light up the Art Barn with her majestic gleam.

While I do not deny that our eclectic campus architectural styles can be perplexing, you have to admit they sure are unique. I always found a certain comfort in our campus. Not too small, but I can still wake up, walk to Jonsson, and be in my seat in 16-and-a half-minutes — trust me, I’ve timed it.

Like our campus, this is no ordinary student body. Like most universities, we have transfer students, international students, and students returning to school after living life out there in the “real world” for a while.

But unlike many campuses, this is not a “melting pot” student body. Every one of us is unique; every one of us has a different story, a different set of goals and ambitions and a different outlook on life. At UT Dallas, we are embraced for this distinctiveness, rewarded for it. We mix and we blend together to create a masterpiece all its own, every graduating class a little different from the one before.

It is obvious how we have marked this school, but what we take away from here is just as important. How has UT Dallas marked us? There is no denying it: You have changed in your time here. Whether you started as a naive freshman eager to begin a new chapter, like myself, or a focused student intent on getting your degree and getting out of here as soon as possible, UT Dallas has affected you.

As individuals, our time here has been unique. For me it is mostly Kappa Alpha Theta, Student Government and the Office of International Education that I owe thanks to for teaching me so much about myself, outside of academics. For you, it might have been MSA, or the Ultimate Frisbee Club, or even those mandatory event assignments from Rhet 1101.

We all took classes, that’s a given. But it is the interpersonal relationships developed outside the classroom that most profoundly shaped our experiences. Could you have done better? Probably. Should you have spent more time studying? I know I should have, but this is no time for regrets. We made it. We’re here, and with the UT Dallas journey behind us, it is time to look forward. Without a doubt you have changed in your time here, now it is up to you to apply the full spectrum of what you’ve learned, academics included, to what comes next.

For us, as one of the final classes of 2008, it has been a great run. We have seen the school grow, and it will continue to grow once we are gone, thanks to the efforts we have put forth these past few years.

We have seen the class dynamic change. I don’t know about you, but I have never seen so many excited freshmen in my life as I did a few months ago just as classes started. As they say: Out with the old, and in with the new.

Our time at UT Dallas is complete, and we deserve to feel satisfaction at that. We have invested not only in the degrees we are about to finally have in hand, but also in this school we are about to step away from. Whether it is graduate school, a career or both that await you when you step outside those doors today, please remember that your time here was special.

Our class is exceptional, and our school, our alma mater, is extraordinary. I am not here to tell you what lies ahead once you have crossed this stage. To be honest, I have no clue what comes next. My failures and successes will be independent from your happiness and heartaches, each of us forging a unique path in humanity. But I can tell you wholeheartedly that we are ready for it. We are prepared, and I cannot wait to see the places we will go.

I do have one final request: When all of you are rolling in your success while being Nobel Laureates or teaching impoverished youth in Third World countries or even just hanging out in your mortgage-free uptown condo (see Mom, I did learn something not related to history or lit studies — I know what a mortgage is!), remember this place, right here, right now.

Never forget where you have come from or what you have learned along the way. I leave you with the words of a genius of our time, a man who aided tremendously in my personal development, Dr. Seuss:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Congratulations, graduates.

Ana Tavares graduated with a double major in historical studies and literary studies from the School of Arts and Humanities.

As a student, she has served as vice president of Student Government; was a member of the University of Texas System Student Advisory Committee; served as president of her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta; was chairperson of the Campus Housing Advisory Committee; sat on the UT Dallas Homecoming Executive Board; and served as an Orientation Team Member.

Tavares held an internship with the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce; studied Mexican culture and the Spanish language at The University of Guanajuato in Mexico; and recently returned from a semester in Washington, D.C. where, as a UT System Archer Fellow, she held an internship with the Association of American Universities.

Tavares ultimately hopes to obtain a graduate degree in higher education administration.