Michelle Ketsler

Master of Business Administration

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you, President Daniel, Provost Wildenthal, Dean Cunningham, Dean Pirkul and Dr. Powell for this truly humbling and meaningful opportunity. Fellow graduates, professors, family and friends, my name is Michelle Ketsler, and today I am honored to receive a Master of Business Administration from the Naveen Jindal School of Management.

Profile Photo of Michelle Ketsler

As a dedicated student, full-time employee, new homeowner, and loyal wife, daughter, and sister, I can tell you that the last three years have been chaotic, to say the least. As a result, I am unfortunately guilty of often flying through my UT Dallas inbox. However, when an email to speak at graduation came through in early January, something prompted me to hit save. Was I crazy to even consider the idea? Yet week after week I continued hitting save on that email, realizing how much I valued the idea of sharing my thoughts and expressing my appreciation.

Four years ago when asked why we wanted to attend graduate school, I’m guessing some of you, like me, had vague answers. Perhaps it was to the extent of, “I don’t know, but it seems like something I should probably do.” Three years ago when asked why we wanted to attend graduate school, our answers were becoming a bit clearer, but still sounded something like “because my family thinks it’s a good idea” or maybe “my company requested I go back to school.” However, today, I am sure all of you are eagerly waiting for someone to ask why you attended graduate school, because like me, I know you are ready to answer the question proudly and can recognize the transformation that has taken place throughout your time at UT Dallas. Today, the answer is, “It has rerouted our journey and given us a fresh start. More important, it has shown us how courageous and resilient we are to taking chances, losing sleep, starting new adventures, making mistakes, and balancing hectic lifestyles.”

For me, this degree has hit reset on my career and established a new baseline for potential industries and employers. As a result, I have turned into a major advocate of graduate-level studies and often promote the possibilities of a newfound future to peers who seem lost and frustrated. As you walk across the stage today, think about what this degree will mean to you. Whether you are seeking a new profession in an unfamiliar industry, moving across the country or going back to build a fresh life in your home country, recognize the progress you have made and the people that have helped bring you to this moment. From each other, we have learned to appreciate the diversity that we possess, yet nonetheless the underlying similarities that bind us together. From great faculty we have learned to question the status quo and reach into unfamiliar territory.

Beyond professional achievement, take a moment to recognize how this graduate degree has affected you from a personal standpoint. Business school has helped me discover a mental and physical toughness I did not previously realize existed, and I suspect most of you feel the same way. We are our harshest critics and often undermine our own abilities and strength. It is amazing what can be achieved through perseverance and hard work, particularly under tight deadlines and high levels of stress.

“From each other, we have learned to appreciate the diversity that we possess, yet nonetheless the underlying similarities that bound us together. From great faculty we have learned to question the status quo and reach into unfamiliar territory.”

I started business school 2 1/2 years ago. I got married less than three years ago. Unfortunately those two activities don’t always go hand in hand, which is why I want to thank my personal cheerleader and partner in crime, my husband, for always being on my team. Planning a marriage around 7-10 p.m. classes has been difficult, but our life together has evolved drastically, and we have truly come to appreciate each other’s time and company. Matt, for better or worse, we will be spending a lot more time together.

I would like to thank my parents and sister for never letting me settle and pushing me to realize the strength in myself that they have seen all along.

Finally, I want to thank my employer who took a chance on me two years ago. It was an MBA-level job in an industry I had zero experience in. I am continually grateful for this opportunity and look forward to many adventures to come.

Now, please turn and look around. Find your personal cheerleaders in the audience, because whether they are spouses, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers or mentors, their patience, encouragement and, most importantly, support have been unwavering.

I would like to leave you with a quote from Anne Frank that I feel encapsulates the goal of my speech:

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”

If you feel stuck, underwhelmed, bored, confused, or uncertain, please take a moment to step outside of your comfort zone and evaluate the possibility of going back to school, changing jobs, moving cities and taking chances. Follow an unfamiliar path and encourage others to do so. Perhaps it is your turn to help someone else answer the question of why to attend graduate school.


Michelle Ketsler graduated as a Scholar of High Distinction with a Master of Business Administration and concentrations in finance and strategic management. She works as a senior analyst at TXU Energy in Irving, Texas.