Alumni Link

JUNE 2016

Comet Tradition Highlights Hard Work and Varying Journeys

UT Dallas students and alumni — along with family, friends, professors and supporters — gathered to accept tangible reminders of University pride at the annual spring ring ceremony.

“When you are presented with your rings, you will wear a powerful symbol of educational achievement attained by graduates of UT Dallas,” said Dr. Andrew Blanchard, dean of undergraduate education.

President ad interim Hobson Wildenthal inspected the rings with mascot, Temoc, in preparation for a pre-ceremony ritual. The rings were then enclosed with equipment used in space research provided by physics professor Dr. John Hoffman (center left) and surrounded by simulated moon dirt created by geosciences professor emeritus Dr. James Carter (left).

Many ring recipients acknowledged family and mentors who encouraged pursuits and helped fund educational journeys.

“While the classes themselves are a very personal accomplishment, this process began with me as a kid, when my parents instilled the values of education and hard work,” said Matthew Wyder BS’13, MS’16.

Some participants reflected upon the sacrifices and assistance necessary to navigating the college experience.

“This has been a long journey … and I found my passion and mission,” said School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences senior Laura Tatone, acknowledging the support of her family in the audience.

The ring includes symbols representative of the UT Dallas experience. A comet encircling a star reminds wearers to look to the future and use one’s education to create a better tomorrow.

“Before UTD, I was a high school dropout,” said Edward Tapia, who recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration. “No matter what, you can change your stars.”

Finance senior Nesli Ozaltun (left) shows off her UT Dallas ring with Patrick Wilson.

Since its inception in 2001, the distinctive UT Dallas ring tradition has evolved into a rite of passage for many Comets. After the official ring presentations, participants proceeded outside, donned their rings and dunked them in a reflecting pool on the University mall, ceremoniously covering their rings and themselves with UT Dallas pride.

“Thank you, UTD,” said Zeyang Liu, a graduate student in the Naveen Jindal School of Management. “Go, Comets!”

The UT Dallas ring is available to all graduates and undergraduate students with at least 75 credit hours and graduate students with at least 15 credit hours. Learn more about purchasing a ring, watch the production process or view more photos from the ceremony.

Couple Pursued Dream of Education Together

Elizabeth Tangumonkem BS’13, MS’16 was raised by a single mother who could not read or write, but pushed her daughter to complete elementary, middle and high school.

Building on that foundation, she and her husband, fellow UT Dallas alum Eric Tangumonkem PhD’08, traveled from Africa to chase their dream of education.

“There were many times during the journey that I felt like quitting, but did not,” she said, speaking to the crowd at the recent UT Dallas ring ceremony. “I kept my eyes on the goal that was set before me.”

After speaking during the ceremony, Eric Tangumonkem PhD’08 (center left) and Elizabeth Tangumonkem BS’13, MS’16 (center right) mark the occasion with family and friends.

She and her husband moved from Africa to the United States during her first year of college there, so he could pursue graduate studies. The life change, coupled with raising their five children, led her to question whether her goal would materialize.

Eric Tangumonkem also came from humble beginnings and as a young man realized how education could impact one’s life.

“I had never dreamt of coming to the United States of America,” he said, sharing how he was drawn to pursue an education in the U.S. after meeting a UT Dallas professor at a conference. “So I went home and told my wife, ‘Baby, we are going to America.’”

Relying on faith, he borrowed money to travel more than 8,000 miles from his home in a remote African village. The obstacles facing him upon arrival — such as surviving in a foreign land and understanding the technology used in classrooms — seemed insurmountable. However, the dream of pursuing his higher level studies prevailed.

“No matter what your dream is, no matter the challenges that are ahead of you … push yourself hard and work hard, and you will persevere,” he said.

Today, the couple proudly has three UT Dallas degrees between them. An anonymous donor inspired by their dedication to education purchased UT Dallas rings for both of them, which were presented at the recent ceremony.

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