A Glimpse of Graduation

Dmitri Shneider

Bachelor of Science, Finance

Fellow graduates, faculty, guests, thank you for all being here. When Dean Coleman asked me to consider being your speaking on this momentous occasion, I thought long and hard about what it is that I would like to share with you, and what you would actually want to listen to.

I asked many of my friends what they would want to hear in a commencement speech that would keep them awake. The two responses that came up most often were: “don’t be boring,” thanks, great advice guys; and “establish a connection with your audience.”

Well, my fellow graduates, I have a confession to make.  I was extremely nervous this morning. When I woke up I had dull pains in my sides. I slid out of bed, brushed my teeth, combed my hair, fixed my tie, and I stared aimlessly at the mirror thinking to myself “am I really going to be able to find a parking space today?”

Another suggestion that I received was to talk about the great achievements of the athletic teams at UTD. The baseball team qualified for the American Southwest Conference Championship this weekend... The women’s soccer team advanced to its third straight title game in as many years…. The men’s basketball team had its best season in program history … And of course, March Madness was incredibly exciting, here in Dallas.

The relationships that we have developed during our journey at UTD are the most important aspects of our experience.

Many of you may not know it, but UTD won the Final Four…Yes, I’m serious… UTD won the Final Four … of Chess. Did you know that we have a chess team here?? You may have heard something about it. It’s no big deal, really, we only have the number 1 program in the western hemisphere.

UTD has changed immensely from the time I enrolled as a freshman. Back then there was no Phase 9, no School of Management building, no trees around the Student Union area, amongst countless other additions. While the University is constantly growing, we as students were constantly growing as well.  What I will do is try to share some things that I learned at and that I’ll miss most about UTD.

I’ll miss the incredibly helpful faculty!

More than I can count on my hands how many times the faculty has gone out of their way to work with me. Whether it is a make-up test, a one-to-one session to explain the material one more time, recommendations on three days notice (thank you Dr. Redman and Dr. Chaffin), or just them taking their valuable time to share advice from their vast collection of experiences. 

Knowing the faculty here has been a major help, so remember to always get to know the people you work with and keep in touch with them. Of those who are more experienced and higher in rank, ask them questions, pick their brains. Learn from these people. They’ve been where you are, and want you to succeed!

I’ll miss meeting so many new people!

I’ve come across so many diverse people from all over the state, country and world just by hanging out late at night, at the Student Union, sipping the free hot chocolate and playing some ping-pong; putting off studying for another couple minutes for that huge midterm the next day.  Sometimes, it is these unremarkable nights that help us develop the relationships that last lifetimes.

I learned that if you want something you must ask for it. Ask for that scholarship, fellowship, internship, job. Just asking is half the battle most of the time.

The relationships that we have developed during our journey at UTD are the most important aspects of our experience.  With the recent tragic events at Virginia Tech, we witnessed the remarkable strength of the university community.  It is important to remember that there is a network of hundreds of faculty, thousands of graduates, and their friends and families to be there for us if we are ever in need. Whether we end up staying in Dallas, move to the coasts or even overseas, we must never forget that we have a home away from home.

I also learned some things:

I learned that if you want something you must ask for it.  

Ask for, that scholarship, fellowship, internship, job.  Just asking is half the battle most of the time. I almost missed out on one of the most amazing experiences of my life, the Archer Fellowship, because I did not apply for it. At first, I rationalized to myself: “I don’t have time to write these essays, to fill out this application… I probably won’t be chosen anyways.” But I did submit the application- on the day it was due, and I was chosen and the semester in Washington, D.C., changed my life. Even as we get older, and have more responsibilities, we always have time; we just have to set it aside for the things that are important.

I learned that it is necessary to do the small things.

To write thank you notes when people do you favors, to remember birthdays, to smile when ordering coffee, to buy freshmen lunch, to give rides to the airport, to attend friends plays, and athletic games, to tell your parents you love them, as well all the other things that don’t take much time and effort, but mean a lot to those around you. It’s these small things that make up who we are. They let our close ones know that we care, and that we appreciate what they do for us.

It is necessary to do the small things. To write thank you notes when people do you favors, to remember birthdays, to smile when ordering coffee, to buy freshmen lunch, to attend friend's plays, to tell your parents you love them, as well all the other things that don't take much time and effort, but mean a lot to those around you.

Primarily, though, I learned that at the end of my time at UTD, I still have much to learn. And this, I believe, is the whole purpose of education. To make us realize that the world is a complex place. That rarely is there only right answer; that we don’t have to know everything, or plan everything twenty years in advance. And it is great.  It is great to know that even though we are graduating, our life’s lessons are only beginning and we can continue to discover ourselves and who we really are.  This is why it is called a commencement ceremony and not a funeral.  

My fellow graduates, as the proverb goes:  “Our real education begins today.”

Thank you.

Dmitri Shneider graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in finance from the School of Management. He’s been a member of the Financial Management Association, the Student Business Alliance, and a Senator in Student Government.

He was an Archer Fellow and spent a semester in Washington, D.C. He has also run his own company.

Winning the $64,000 Samford Prize as the best American chess player under 25 in 2004 took him away from UT Dallas.  He spent 18 months playing chess all over the world. He has represented UTD and America in several hemispheric and world chess championships. He is a two-time gold medalist from the Pan American Chess Championships, a former UT Dallas chess club president, and a member of the best collegiate chess team in America.

Upon graduation, he plans to try his hand on Wall Street, where the ability to think seven or eight moves ahead may prove quite lucrative.