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Master of Science in International Political Economy

Good morning, family, friends, faculty and fellow graduates. I was going to come up here and talk about some unifying theme, but it was not until many, many, cups of coffee at Café Brazil later that I realized that it is impossible to come up with any one thing that is common to Comets, except for the stardust that runs through our veins. We accomplish everything that we put our minds to. How else can you explain the nationally renowned debaters, internationally feared chess players, and record-breaking athletes, unicyclers and researchers who are sitting in front of me? It’s all but impossible to compete with Comets — after all, we do boast an Antarctic explorer, an astronaut, four Texas legislators, and (as of this year) five Nobel laureates in our midst, and are well on our way toward becoming a Tier One school. And don’t forget, our football team has been undefeated since 1969.

We are just as passionate about education as we are about our fandoms (I’m looking at you, Whovians). With more than 250 clubs and student organizations on campus, UT Dallas has evolved far beyond being an engineering school. Our school and the people in it are inspiring. The first time I brought my little brother to campus, he was only 11 years old and wanted to be a chef, firefighter and professional video game player — all at the same time. I took him on a tour of campus (with a detour to the Dining Hall with its unlimited pizza) and to a rugby game. The energy, enthusiasm, and inclusivity must have made quite an impression, because he left here wanting to be a biochemist, so that he could one day come to UT Dallas and join the ranks of the brilliant scholars and passionate leaders he saw that day. He is going to high school soon, and that dream is still very much alive.

“UT Dallas has evolved far beyond being an engineering school. Our school and the people in it are inspiring.”

Before you go out into the world, take a moment to remember where you started and take stock of how far you’ve come. I’m willing to bet that most of you have changed more in the last four years than this campus has. Remember the excitement of this moment, the over-caffeinated readiness to take on the world, and allow this passion to come through in whatever you do, regardless of where life takes you. Don’t forget the legacy you’re carrying with you, and the words of wisdom your favorite professors have imparted to you.

But most of all, stay grounded. Your degree is the tool with which to conquer the world. The great unknown that lies ahead really does begin with what you do now. Living in an unknowable future with expectations of a better tomorrow will deprive you of the knowledge you can gain today. You will be overworked and probably vastly underpaid at first, but I urge you to take it all in. Don’t let the elusive “tomorrow” blind you to the moment and the experiences of today.

You see, the thing that I’ve realized is that we Comets are built for success. I’ve had the unique advantage of entering UT Dallas in 2012 with the graduating undergrads sitting before me, and fast-tracking into the graduate program, so I’ve worked with members of both groups of EPPS students. I’ve seen you all grow to become the people you are today, and let me tell you, you’re exceptionally bright, incredibly dedicated and unwaveringly steadfast. We drink more caffeine, pull more all-nighters, make more late-night food runs, and have “whooshed” on more continents than should be humanly possible. But we consistently pull through and excel at anything that we set our minds to. This moment, right here, is the moment we’ve been working for, and this is the moment that we realize that it’s all been worth it. UT Dallas is sending us out into the world more prepared and ready to tackle any challenge, whether it’s taking on cancer research or Capitol Hill.

Anna Shapovalova graduated with a Master of Science in international political economy. She is a member of the Delta Epsilon Iota and Omicron Delta Epsilon academic honor societies at UT Dallas. She was one of four UT Dallas students to receive grants from the metropolitan government in Seoul, South Korea, to analyze the country’s urban planning strategies. After graduation, she plans to pursue a doctorate in economics with an emphasis on sustainable international development.