Nha-Binh Hoang

Bachelor of Science, Biology

Welcome distinguished faculty, fellow graduates, and dearest family and friends to the UT Dallas Spring 2014 Commencement Ceremony for the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. I would also like to take this time to thank my family, friends and all those whose support guided me to where I am today: standing here in cap and gown.

Profile Photo of Nha-Binh Hoang

The months leading up to graduation seemed like a dream. It was hard to imagine that just four years ago we were wide-eyed freshmen navigating through the rough and fickle waters of college life. We clumsily finished “Gen Chem,” thinking that we had finally gotten the hang of college – until we got to “O Chem.” By the time we somehow managed to survive Dr. Biewer’s and Dr. Taenzler’s exams, all the required calculus classes and prerequisites we could handle, life seemed bleak. Graduation was nowhere in sight.

But we are resilient. We carried on. We cracked open books when all we wanted to do was binge-watch Breaking Bad before the series finale. We cast aside Wolfram Alpha for the Math Lab. We pulled all-nighters and managed to sit through exams the following mornings with our fellow musty students. The waves settled and we began drifting steadily toward the end of our time at UT Dallas.

By the beginning of our last semester here, we became nostalgic. Remember when the Clark Center was the Conference Center? And freshman year group study sessions? I mean, remember when we still thought group study sessions actually worked? I remember when we had to walk across campus instead of taking these fancy shuttles. And at times we didn’t want to leave. But we saw the finish line and even though we didn’t know what lay ahead, we swam on. Pushing past the upper-level electives and senior research papers, here we are today: exhausted, relieved and a little afraid.

My father was in one of the first graduating classes here at UT Dallas, and as a second-generation Comet, I can tell you with certainty that we are timeless. He was a physics major and graduated with only eight other students in his field. Here we are graduating with hundreds of others in our majors. But one thing still remains the same at UTD: The quality of education remains the first and foremost priority.

“We can say what we want about our time here, but we can never say that we weren’t challenged. Because we were constantly pushed to our limits and survived, we know that no matter what the future holds for us, we are ready, whether we believe it or not.”

For me, this school has given me a free education and opportunities I could never have found anywhere else. Freshman year, I had a chance to work in Dr. Dieckmann’s lab with peptides and carbon nanotubes. Junior year, I was introduced to Dr. Anglin, a breast surgeon who specializes in breast cancer. Through these people and experiences, I have spent more time in the lab and operating room than many people have in a lifetime. Looking back at your time here, I am sure you all can relate – there were people who have touched your lives and opportunities that have opened your eyes.

We can say what we want about our time here, but we can never say that we weren’t challenged. Because we were constantly pushed to our limits and survived, we know that no matter what the future holds for us, we are ready, whether we believe it or not. Throughout our educational careers, we’ve been preparing for this “real world,” a mythical creature that was always in the tomorrow. But after we leave here today, that tomorrow will be present and we will have to finally face the inevitable real world. Two roads will diverge in a wood; we’ll use our GPS and still get lost. And that’s OK. Four years ago, most of us here probably started pre-med. And since then some of us have changed majors, some of us have taken on minors, and many of us have changed career paths altogether. Our definitions of ourselves, success and the future will constantly be changing. It is OK to be afraid of what lies beyond the horizon as long as we never stop asking: “What kind of person do I want to be?” “What difference do I want to make?” Only then can we conquer that fear and keep moving forward. Now please give a round of applause for ourselves because we have finally made it, UTD Class of 2014.

Nha-Binh Hoang graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology. As a freshman, she received a Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation grant to work in Dr. Gregg Dieckmann’s laboratory, studying peptides and carbon nanotubes. Throughout her sophomore and junior years, she volunteered alongside medical school students at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Monday Free Clinic. She is currently serving as director of community engagement for the Delta Epsilon Iota honor society and service chair for the Golden Key Honor Society. After graduation, she plans to continue pursuing her dream of entering medical school.