A Glimpse of Graduation

Bree Szostek

Bachelor of Science, Molecular Biology

I did a lot of traveling in January and February trying to get my post college life in order. It is a very long flight from Oakland to Dallas by way of LA, Albuquerque, and San Antonio so I had a great deal of time to think between de-boarding, screaming toddlers, re-boarding and turbulence.

One of the best parts of my short time jet setting around the country was the people I met. I talked with a man with his Ph.D. in computer science from Yale, a gentleman from Vietnam who had been in the country a week, and a Moot Court team from the University of Arizona.

Thinking back on my college experience I realized we all came to UTD for different reasons but we all had one common goal: a life beyond college. For us, college was never supposed to be the end; we always had a sense of a bigger purpose.

The Yale grad told me about what he thought he wanted to do with his degree, and what he was actually doing. The Vietnamese man told me he had been trying to come to America for years, and had finally made it. The Arizona students told me their majors and tentative plans after graduation. Different people, places, and backgrounds but we all talked about the same things: goals, hopes, dreams; our futures. Orrin Hatch put it best when he said, "There is a good reason they call these ceremonies ‘commencement exercises.’" Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.

Thinking back on my college experience I realized we all came to UTD for different reasons but we all had one common goal: a life beyond college. For us, college was never supposed to be the end, we always had a sense of a bigger purpose. The question now is how we will achieve our goals. Some of us came here because we wanted to learn, others because it was the next step after high school. Some of us were motivated by money or knowledge. For others, this day is something they have been waiting for and striving toward for many years. Regardless of why you are here, college was never meant to be the end of the road. Rather, it was a necessary means to reach our final destination, and we all chose UTD as a part of that path.

By graduating from UTD, we are graduating from a University whose reputation precedes us, and it is our duty to uphold UTD’s reputation of molding intelligent, ambitious and talented students into resourceful, successful, gifted professionals and citizens.

Our class has seized the opportunity to shape UTD into what we believed it should be, what we knew it could be. We have been given a different view on undergraduate education by attending a less traditional school. This is what made us unique as students, and what will continue to make us different as graduates. We must take this unique view into the next stage of our lives, be it continued education, the professional world, or family life. We must not be afraid to change the world around us, to help it adapt to our ideas instead of conforming to its predispositions. By graduating from UTD, we are graduating from a University whose reputation precedes us, and it is our duty to uphold UTD’s reputation of molding intelligent, ambitious, and talented students into resourceful, successful, gifted professionals and citizens.

This is a day of accomplishment for us, but it is not the end of our stories. We should be proud but not content. Our family needs to be congratulatory, but continue to encourage us to keep achieving more. Our mentors can give us more freedom in our ideas, but not reserve guidance completely. Though we may have completed our formal education, there is a great deal of learning left to be done.

Today, my classmates, we continue our journey as adults through the world. When we leave this room we are responsible for ourselves, now we must learn what every one who has already entered the real world knows: we are adults, and that is both terrifying and exhilarating, and now the real work starts.

"A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success." Robert Orben is right: we are not alone in this realization and transition into adulthood. Students all over the country are coming to this exact same conclusion. Every other member of the class of 2008 is, has, or will be sitting in their caps and gowns waiting for the commencement speaker to sit down so they can walk the stage as their families demanded.

So, let me leave you with this: we all entered into this university with goals, dreams, plans... so please, as you leave, do not forget why you came.

Let me wish you all the best of luck in your endeavors and congratulate you. UT Dallas class of 2008, we are graduates.

Bree Szostek graduated with honors with a degree in molecular biology. She was a member of the Dean’s Honor Roll, the Collegium V Honors Program, a member of Alpha Phi Omega and a recipient of an Academic Excellence Scholarship.

She was an active researcher as an undergraduate student, having had projects funded through a SCDRC Biomedical Research Scholarship and the UT Dallas Sickle Cell Disease Research Center. She was also selected as a Green Fellow, which allowed her to spend a semester in the Sodora laboratory at UT Southwestern Medical School.

Over her undergraduate career, she was lead author on three scientific presentations, including one delivered to the Sigma Xi national undergraduate research conference, and is second author on a new article being submitted to the Journal of Bacteriology.

This fall she will begin her Ph.D. studies in microbiology and molecular genetics on a fellowship at Emory University in Atlanta.