Melissa J. Carley

Master of Science, Accounting

Let me begin by thanking President Daniel, Provost Wildenthal, Dean Cunningham and Dean Pirkul. Good afternoon, distinguished faculty, administrators, students and guests. It is a great honor to have been chosen to speak on behalf of my fellow graduates on this important occasion.

Spring 2014 graduate Melissa Carley

This has been a long journey for many of us. For me, I started this journey more than three years ago. Previously, I had a great career at American Airlines. I chose to leave it to stay home and raise my children. It was satisfying work, but, like many of you, I still wanted to pursue my dream of going back to school to earn a master’s degree. I was excited to be a part of UT Dallas, but I was scared to return to school. It had been 15 years since I earned my undergraduate degree, and I wasn’t sure my brain even worked that way anymore. Additionally, when I started the master’s program, I was intimidated by your youthful enthusiasm, your incredible intellect and your energy. As a teaching assistant, I had the pleasure of becoming invested in you. I have been in the professional world, and I have now walked in your shoes as a student. Therefore, on this significant occasion, I would like to share a few thoughts I have learned along the journey.

Be courageous. You may be feeling fear, uncertainty and insecurity today. This is the closing of an important chapter of our lives and the end of one dream. You may wake up tomorrow and say, “What now?” Embrace those fears. It is time to have a new dream. I assure you that your adventures are just beginning. Draw upon the character traits that you developed here – tenacity, work ethic, and determination. Do not let the fear of failure rob you of your courage. I am a great admirer of the leadership of Winston Churchill. He once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Never stop learning. You may think that your days of learning are now behind you. You may also feel queasy about the thought of having to read another book right now. However, we are life-long students. More of the world is about to open up to us, and we still have a lot to learn. Go into your jobs and your life with the heart of a student. Seek out mentors and surround yourself with inspiring people. Learn to be leaders from those who lead, learn to be successful from those who have succeeded, learn to forgive from those who have forgiven you, and learn to be thankful from those who are thankful.

Don’t underestimate your creativity. Our diplomas may say “Accounting,” “IT,” “Management” or “Marketing,” but we are just as creative as the students in the arts programs. We possess new ideas, innovation and the ability to challenge old ways of thinking. You can apply the business models and concepts you learned in your education to the business world. You also have the ability to redesign those models and concepts. Cultivate your creativity. Take it to your workplace and inspire those around you. You possess ideas that no one has thought of yet, so be visionaries in your workplace.

If necessary, reinvent yourself. We are becoming accountants, business professionals, managers, marketers and employees. We worked hard to learn a set of skills. You may have your eyes set on the C suite of a large corporation or as a partner of an accounting firm. There is nothing wrong with those desires. However, life is unpredictable. If there is one thing I can guarantee you, it is that life will take you in directions you are not anticipating. You may find yourself disenchanted with the business world, bored with spreadsheets, or even find new passions. If you ever find yourself in a rut or maybe you lost your passion, it may be time to reinvent yourself. Have the courage to do so.

“More of the world is about to open up to us, and we still have a lot to learn. Go into your jobs and your life with the heart of a student. Seek out mentors and surround yourself with inspiring people.”

This day is about you. Today is the day to celebrate your tremendous accomplishment. All of us have made sacrifices for our education. If you are a full-time student, then you put your life on hold to reach this goal. If you are a nontraditional student, then you found the energy to work all day and attend class at night. Please know that you have inspired countless people. Your sacrifices and hard work give hope to everyone out there who dreams of higher education. On this day, allow your loved ones to celebrate and honor you. Laugh, smile, and take pictures. Say goodbye to friends you made here and happily rejoice that you will no longer have to find a parking spot on campus.

Remember to be gracious and thank those who helped get you here. If you are graduating today, I ask that you please take a moment to salute your family and friends in the bleachers and say, “Thank you.” I would like to thank my family, Jon, Meridith, Daniel, Beryl, Katie, and Heath. I also would not be here today if it weren’t for Professor Chris Linsteadt and Professor Mark Salamasick.

Thank you, and congratulations Class of 2014!


Melissa Carley graduated cum laude with a master of science in accounting. She holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Texas A&M University. Previously, she worked at American Airlines as a financial analyst for airport operations on the West Coast, and then a project manager on AA.com. She was a teaching assistant for the Center for Internal Auditing Excellence for three semesters. She was also an active member and treasurer for the UT Dallas Student Chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors. After graduation, she plans to seek work as an internal auditor with a nonprofit organization and study to earn her CPA certification.