A Glimpse of Graduation

Laura Roppe

Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies

Good afternoon, fellow graduates, distinguished faculty, family and friends.

First of all, I would like to thank the dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, Dr. George W. Fair, and the associate dean, Dr. Elizabeth Salter, for giving me this unbelievable opportunity and honor to speak to you today.

Profile Photo of Laura Roppe

To be honest, I am surprised to be standing on this stage at all. As all of you can see, I am not your traditional college student. The first day I walked on to UT Dallas' campus, my heart was beating so hard, it was all that I could hear. It was my first time on a college campus since 1999. I was scared to death. I worried that I would not be able to accomplish the goals that I had set for myself and would quite possibly fail again. I was afraid that I would not make friends. I felt so different in comparison to the youthful cherub faces that stared back at me as I walked through the corridors in Green Hall. I thought to myself, “How am I going to do this?”

“I believe our future success is directly attributable to the high standards of UT Dallas and the quality of the faculty and staff. We have been given the tools. We have established a solid foundation. We have earned the right to be called graduates of UT Dallas.”

However, it did not take long for me to figure out the missing ingredient. I was going to accomplish my goals with the solid and unwavering support of others. Indeed, we each often derive substantial strength from those with whom we choose to surround ourselves. The faculty, students and staff at UT Dallas are simply amazing! I have attended other universities but have never felt like I truly belonged. Perhaps this accounts, at least in part, for why I never finished … that is until now. At UT Dallas, I did not feel like I was just another number. I felt like a student who belonged, regardless of my age, my past, or how not-so-traditional my path. Everyone with whom I have had the honor to cross paths has made my time at UT Dallas an experience that I will never forget.

As we, the class of fall 2011, embark upon the next chapter of our lives, we will most surely experience fear and uncertainty regarding what is around the next corner, a fear and uncertainty akin to that which I felt on my very first day. Perhaps many of you were similarly apprehensive on your first day? We all have something else in common, regardless of our field of study. Whether we are graduating with a degree in computer science or engineering or interdisciplinary studies, we all aspire for a better life. I believe such aspirations to be at the very heart of the decision to pursue a college degree. And, were it otherwise, many of us would not be here today. This road has certainly not been easy, but it has been rewarding.

We are part of the next great generation. The challenges we face in these uncertain economic times should not be underestimated. As we look toward the future, some of us may choose to enter graduate school. Others will start looking for employment. Indeed, some may have already accepted positions in their respective fields. But rest assured. Although our paths forward may be quite different, we are each well prepared. I believe our future success is directly attributable to the high standards of UT Dallas and the quality of the faculty and staff. We have been given the tools. We have established a solid foundation. We have earned the right to be called graduates of UT Dallas. Have no doubt: We are up for the challenge.

During a particularly inspirational address to the 2005 Stanford University graduates, the late Steve Jobs related the following rather poignant and provocative thought:

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

What an incredibly encouraging and comforting message. We all want to create a better life for ourselves and our loved ones, so it is important that we, too, follow our instincts and our hearts. They know the way. Congratulations to you all, and thank you!

Laura Roppe graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies. In addition to her full-time academic schedule, she was employed with a local doctor while her husband was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan. This fall, Laura participated in a UT Dallas internship program and worked in the Office of the Texas Attorney General. She is a mother of two young men, Lucas, 18, and Aaron, 8.