Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering
My first experience with The University of Texas at Dallas was as a junior in high school when I signed up to take the SAT. On a cold, dark and rainy Saturday morning, I arrived at Hoblitzelle Hall, nervous and wanting to get out of there as soon as possible. Yet soon I would be back, this time as a Comet.
Over these four years, I have grown to appreciate the University, its goals, its people and its culture. UT Dallas has gone from being a construction site to a beautifully remodeled university that reflects its lofty aspirations. Today I want to talk about four lessons that I learned during my time as a Comet.
First: Don’t be afraid to change your mind. When I first came to UT Dallas, I had no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. I started as a biology major learning about lipids and carbon bonds. However, after some soul searching, I switched to electrical engineering and started focusing my attention on resistors and capacitors. It was scary at times, and I remember asking myself, “Do I really want to do this?” But part of changing your mind is to finally stick with your decisions, and I’m glad I stuck with engineering. In my classes, I learned the difference between simply memorizing facts versus understanding how those facts fit together in the big picture. Don’t let the fear of the outcome keep you from changing your mind. In the long run, it is better to have taken chances than to have remained inactive.
Second: Take risks. My friend likes to say “If life is comfortable, you’re doing it wrong.” Coming from high school, I was a reserved kid. But at UT Dallas I took baby steps toward being more engaged on campus. I remember one day I told my professor, Dr. Harpham, that I would be playing a song at an open mic night in The Pub. Lo and behold, when the time arrived, Dr. Harpham and his wife showed up, cheering me on. UT Dallas has been an open forum where students can introduce new ideas, from Spirit Rock to UTD TV. The faculty are willing to work with students, encouraging and guiding them to make this campus better. By refusing to stay comfortable with how things are, students have left a lasting fingerprint on the University.
Third: Meet new people. Last year, I had the chance to mentor foreign exchange students from Korea as part of a pilot program. In it, UT Dallas students interacted with Korean students and helped them improve their spoken English and learn about America. At first, I was uncertain how I would be able to relate to students from a different culture. However, soon I became very good friends with the three students assigned to me. We did everything from playing pool and pingpong in the Student Union to squash in the Activity Center. We explored downtown Dallas and visited the World Aquarium. And it wasn’t just me helping them; they taught me about life in Korea and Korean phrases like “an-nyeong-ha-se-yo” (Hello). It was a great experience, and I cherish the friendships I made.
“UT Dallas has been an open forum where students can introduce new ideas, from Spirit Rock to UTD TV. The faculty are willing to work with students, encouraging and guiding them to make this campus better.”
And fourth, be thankful. One of my professors, Dr. Lehmann, always used to start class by discussing character traits. One of them was to be thankful. I know that I couldn’t have done this by myself. I thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me the strength to finish this journey. I thank my friends for making the journey fun. I thank my parents for their constant nurture, for their encouragement and self-sacrifice. In the same way, I’m sure each of you has someone to thank. Take some time before stepping out of here to express your gratitude. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.
Today, we remember our accomplishments and step forward into tomorrow. We have ended one journey and are about to start another.
I enjoy traveling in airplanes and like to think of this occasion as a flight. Here we are at the terminal, surrounded by family and friends, our bags packed, equipped with skills learned thus far. Each of us has a special destination, but we share this common source: We are Comets, representing this great university.
I wish you all a safe and exciting flight. Happy landing.
James Issac graduated magna cum laude with a degree in electrical engineering from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
At UT Dallas, he was involved in several organizations, including The UTD Mercury, Student Government, the engineering group IEEE, and the Collegium V honors program. He participated in internships at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Intelligent Epitaxy. In the fall, he plans to attend graduate school at Purdue University, where he received a full scholarship and the University’s Ross Fellowship.