Rachel Hodges

Master of Business Administration

Thank you President Daniel, Provost Wildenthal, Dean Cunningham, Dean Pirkul, faculty and staff, friends and family, and my fellow students for allowing me the tremendous honor of speaking today.

When I was 7, I determined it was my goal to become a chef. After earning my culinary degree and a successful career in the restaurant industry, I accomplished that goal, but I also realized my passion for cooking did not translate into my long-term career aspirations. My new goal started when I made the decision to go back to school for business. UT Dallas became my new home as I earned my undergraduate and (soon) graduate degree.

Profile Photo of Alan Howell

I’ll be honest: Like many of you, when I became a student, UT Dallas was merely a means to an end. But nearly five years later, I am walking away with so much more than just an education. There were many valuable lessons learned in my time spent at UT Dallas. For example, I know I am prepared for the holiday mall shopping season from my honed ability to scout out a green parking spot from the moment the fork splits the road on University Parkway. I have been reminded that procrastination is never a good idea after trying to print my PowerPoint slides in the printing lab five minutes before class starts. And I concluded that some things never change, such as me and sports, when it took me nearly three years to realize the ever-overused “undefeated football team” expression was actually a joke.

All kidding aside, as students, we were given a rare opportunity to experience a world of ever-changing people and challenges and to turn those experiences into life lessons.

One such lesson was the ability to adapt to different supervisors’ managing styles in the workplace.  In five years, I have had the privilege of encountering more than 30 different professors at UT Dallas. Each one had his own style and method of teaching, and each brought a new perspective. Though I hope to never have 30 different bosses in a five-year period, each professor represented something I have found in a former or current boss. The boss who lets you march to the beat of your own drum, like Dr. Ziegler playing her eclectic mix of music before each lesson and encouraging us to do the same. The boss who instructs you on how to improve, like Dr. Renken reminding me I need to delegate more in group projects. Or the boss who pushes you to pursue things you thought you weren’t capable of achieving, like Dr. Ozer, who always pushes his students to reach their full potential, and who encouraged me to apply for scholarships and apply for this speech. Adapting to professors’ styles and appreciating what they each offered will benefit you in your career and give you take-aways on what type of manager you want to be.

Another very unexpected life lesson was about diversity. The diversity I speak of goes beyond race and ethnicity, though UT Dallas is rich in both. What I am speaking about is best captured by a quote in a TED Talk video a great friend of mine sent me about beauty, nature and gratitude. In the video, a Benedictine monk made the comment, “Look at the faces of the people in your world. Each one has an incredible story behind that face.” This statement is UT Dallas. Look around you; look at the groups of students that represent UT Dallas. There are the students who come out of high school, go straight for their undergrad and now have a graduate degree to boot. How I envy your maturity and ability to achieve so much at a young age. There are the students who travel to the United States for their education, away from their home countries. Your courage and ability to adapt to the unknown are truly inspiring. There are the students who not only attend classes but also are involved in the plethora of groups and activities that UT Dallas has to offer. Your experience at UT Dallas was richer and more memorable for it. And there is my group, the so-called “commuter student,” The group that wishes a workweek was only 40 hours. The group that is so busy, they may not even be attending this ceremony. If you are like me, you most likely have suffered near insanity at times, but you got through it, and now you are probably like me, wondering what you are going to do with all your upcoming free time.

“Be grateful for your accomplishments, be grateful for one another. Take that gratitude with you to all the new faces you’ll meet and on every goal you reach in life, because there are many ahead.”

These examples are just a small cross-section of the varieties of students who attend UT Dallas. Each one of you has your own story, your own path, and your own reason for being here.  However, each student in this room holds one key point in common: We all said thank you for that undergrad degree and, in fact, we can do better.  We pushed ourselves to achieve a feat that not everyone has. We did it. And hopefully, like me, you embraced the opportunity to meet many unique people along the way. I will forever take this lesson with me through life: to not only accept, but also embrace one another’s diversity.

To end this speech, I wanted to share one last quote from the same video I previously mentioned. The monk said, “You think this is just another day in your life. It is not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you – today. It’s a gift. It is the only gift you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness.”

This quote is a reminder to everyone in this room to be grateful for this moment, this day, these two hours of your life. To the faculty and staff that get to see the end result of their direction and teachings; to the supportive family and friends who get to experience the pride and culmination of seeing their loved ones celebrated for their achievements; and most importantly to my fellow students who have just accomplished a multi-year dedication of time, sacrifice, initiative and hard work. You’ve met your goal, and the people in this room supported and guided you to that goal. Be grateful for your accomplishments, be grateful for one another. Take that gratitude with you to all the new faces you’ll meet and on every goal you reach in life, because there are many ahead.

My goal was to graduate from the University of Texas at Dallas. For those of you who taught me, who shared projects with me, or who simply smiled at me as I walked to class, thank you. You’re now a part of helping me achieve my goal, which is a part of my life’s story.


Rachel Hodges earned an associate’s of applied science in culinary arts. She made the decision to return to school to pursue business during her eight-year career as a Pastry Chef at a local restaurant. While working full-time as a chef she graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Finance at UT Dallas in 2011. In 2012 she was hired by Goldman, Sachs & Company where she works as an Operations Analyst. While pursuing her undergraduate and graduate degrees she has maintained status on the Dean’s List and earned the Dean’s Excellence scholarships. She is graduating today with high distinction in Master of Business Administration. After graduation she plans to continue her employment with Goldman Sachs.