Students and Families Pack Graduation Ceremonies

1,944 Earn Diplomas; Speakers Celebrate Friendships Formed, Lessons Learned

May 16, 2009

Nearly 2,000 University of Texas at Dallas students donned gowns and mortar boards, listened to speeches and accepted their hard-earned diplomas during five graduation ceremonies held Friday and Saturday in the Activity Center.

With the latest group, the number of degrees conferred by the University since its founding in 1969 has swollen to more than 68,000.

Spring 2009 Commencement

A Glimpse of Graduation: Photos, Speeches

President Daniel’s Address:
“Creating the Future is about Creating Hope”

Ordering DVDs of Ceremonies

Commencement is held twice per year, with the spring ceremonies typically the University’s largest. Among those scheduled to receive degrees were 729 graduate and Ph.D. candidates and 1,215 undergraduates.

At UT Dallas, students compete to present an address at one of the graduation ceremonies. Selected by committees of their peers and faculty, the speakers were judged on academic achievement, campus and community involvement and lecture content. The nine speakers for spring commencement were:

  • Ryan Blodgett — Bachelor of Science in business administration from the School of Management.
  • Maya Bouali — Bachelor of Science in finance from the School of Management.
  • Sara Clingan — Bachelor of Arts in political science and a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.
  • Stephen Dunlap — Master of business administration, School of Management.
  • Jessica Harpham — Bachelor of Science in biology, School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
  • Julie Kangas — Bachelor of Arts with a double major in psychology from the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and in art and performance from the School of Arts and Humanities.
  • Felicity Lenes — Bachelor of Science in molecular biology, School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
  • Daniella Poole — Bachelor of Arts in literary studies, School of Arts and Humanities.
  • Bradley Wallace — Bachelor of Science in computer science, Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Many of their speeches included reflections about their time spent at UT Dallas and about the abundance of future opportunities.

“It will soon be time to leave school and enter the working world,” Blodgett noted. “Some of you may have already done this. Either way, it is time for the Facebook generation to take over the business world.”

Bouali reminded fellow graduates about the value of a UT Dallas education.

“We are the youthful risk-takers, ambitious dreamers and passionate builders,” she said. “History has given us a chance to craft the future. And today we gain a powerful tool to build the future — a college education.”

Fellow speaker Clingan talked about something on the minds of many of her fellow graduates: the supportive faculty at the University.

“My path has not been that of a typical UT Dallas student, not because spectacular opportunities aren’t afforded to all students, but because there is no typical UT Dallas student,” Clingan said. “As freshmen, we were given a blank canvas and allowed to paint as we saw fit. We could start organizations, reform organizations, petition for change, and the faculty would do something truly innovative — they would listen.

In their speeches, Dunlap and Lenes echoed Clingan’s thoughts about the encouraging atmosphere at UT Dallas.

“I believe the changes I have gone through are at the core of the UT Dallas experience — where the school encourages its student body to spread their wings and the school and community then ensure that each flies,” Dunlap said.

“A great deal of what I have learned has been due to the extraordinarily nurturing environment at UT Dallas,” Lenes said. “Here, we are encouraged to create, to innovate, and to lead at the borders between traditional disciplines. Here, we are full partners in our success, and our success is inextricably linked to the success of the University.”

Other talks were peppered with reflections about life beyond the University.

“Now we are about to launch into a much bigger world, a world that needs change. As graduates and citizens, we can have a positive impact on the world, the way we have had a positive impact on this University. Maybe this is why I feel young today; I’m realizing that my impact on the world has only begun,” Harpham said.

“My fellow graduates, I know that we all have families, friends, faiths and philosophies that unite us to others outside of UT Dallas, but I pray that you will not simply recede into what is familiar and convenient,” Kangas said. “Please continue to live as an active member of the UT Dallas community because we are better when we are connected.”

“I can’t help looking at all of us here and being proud of what we have been driven to accomplish, because it is a major accomplishment in each of our lives,” Daniella Poole said. “Today we have achieved something that can never be taken away from us. Passion of some kind or another got us here, and I hope that you will continue to let it drive you in the future.”

Bradley Wallace likely best summed up the feelings of most of his fellow graduates when he pointed out that family, friends and faculty are a vital resource and lifeline for most college students.

“We may be the ones wearing caps and gowns, but the accomplishment has not been a sole effort,” Wallace said. “Graduation is an opportunity to publicly acknowledge those whose support helped us get through. Parents, professors and peers, you have taught us, pushed us, tested us and supported us, and we have become better individuals because of you. You are our dedication page. Thanks for carrying us through.”

In addition to the student talks, UT Dallas President David E. Daniel also addressed the graduates and their supporters.

“You chose diligence early in your academic lives to assure your qualification for the very competitive environment of this University,” Daniel said to the graduates. “When the time came, you chose this special environment, characterized by its rigor and energy, where we expect more of students, and where they regularly exceed our expectations. You chose to get out of bed and got to class, to study hard and to shape your future so positively. Congratulations, and well done.”

The largest of UT Dallas’ seven schools, the School of Management, awarded the most degrees during spring commencement with 665.

Next were the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences with 271; the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science with 271; the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics with 241; the School of Arts and Humanities with 207; the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences with 167; and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies with 122.

School of Management degrees were awarded Friday. Ceremonies for the remaining schools were Saturday.


Media Contact: Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, jennib@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Students at Spring Commencement

Spring commencement ceremonies brought the number of degrees conferred by UT Dallas to more than 68,000 since the University’s founding in 1969.

Dr. David E. Daniel at the lectern

“You chose diligence early in your academic lives to assure your qualification for the very competitive environment of this University,” UT Dallas President David E. Daniel said to the graduates.

Ryan Blodgett

“It is time for the Facebook generation to take over the business world,” Ryan Blodgett told fellow School of Management graduates in his commencement speech.

Maya Bouali

“History has given us a chance to craft the future. And today we gain a powerful tool to build the future — a college education,” finance major Maya Bouali told classmates.

Spring graduates walking down the steps

The largest of UT Dallas’ seven schools, the School of Management, awarded the most degrees.

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