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Bachelor of Science, Biomedical Engineering

Community. It surrounds us, shapes us. It's the people we associate with — those to whom we belong. We find purpose in our community, a desire to better it and a commitment to do so.

Right now, fellow graduates, you're literally surrounded by your community. Up in those bleachers are our parents, spouses, children, grandparents and friends.

To the community in the bleachers, thank you so much in joining your graduates to commemorate this special day. If you've been around a graduate recently, you must have heard of the dedication it took to get to this stage. For those who have been there, supporting financially and emotionally, encouraging with words and actions, feeding with food and thought, thank you. We would not be the graduates we are today without the people who stood by us.

Comets, your community is also made up of those who taught you: mentors, professors, faculty and staff. To the community in the regalia today, both on the stage and not, thank you. Thank you for supporting, believing. You let us into your labs, to work with very expensive equipment, you trusted us, even when we didn't. You taught us to work hard, prepared us to the best of your abilities for the real world, and for that we are very grateful. Thank you.

Little Comets, your community is also composed of those who sit among you.

Together, the Class of 2015 has been through some pretty crazy things. Senior design projects that didn't quite work for a few months, a dissertation so complex you couldn't quite separate the graduate student from the topic. From all-nighters, to 8:30 p.m. calculus exams, to yearlong thesis projects and pages upon pages of lab reports, it has all led to this commencement day.

"You taught us to work hard, prepared us to the best of your abilities for the real world, and for that we are very grateful."

The campus we walked onto three, four, five or six years ago is vastly different from the campus we are leaving today. The student population, our community, has nearly doubled, and the number of buildings has also grown, though parking remains about the same. Many of us here were instrumental to these changes, this growth. We came from different backgrounds, different states and different countries, but found connections. Today, the UT Dallas community is strong and vibrant. No, UTD doesn't have Heisman Trophy winners, but we do have world-renowned scientists, entrepreneurs, future doctors and world-changers. We have buzzer-beater basketball games, Springapalooza splatter dances, and peers that care about you and what you've been up to. It's here on the campus of UT Dallas that I found true friends, where I learned to play chess. The community of UTD has been essential to who I've become. From this day forward, UTD is no longer that "nerd" school I attended, but that "nerd" school I graduated from. Today, we are joining the ranks of fellows Comets, taking our whooshing out into the world around us.

So today is a pretty special day. Today, many Comets are walking this stage, about to take on the real world, whether that be in a career, continued education or beginning a family. It's a day of celebration. But today is special for another reason. Five years ago, several faculty members at The University of Texas at Dallas sought to start a new undergraduate program. Building on the success of a growing graduate degree, the biomedical engineering major was established. Fall 2011 saw the entrance of about 70 students, bright and eager. As with any new program, bumps come along the way — hiring of new faculty, changing degree plans, uncertainty. But for many, a new program gave unprecedented opportunities. The new faculty came with new labs, ready to be filled with undergraduates. Industry professionals were brought in, who were willing to teach and mentor. The newest program at UT Dallas soon stood along with math and physics as one of the most difficult degrees at the University. Last December saw the first graduations of bioengineering graduate students. Today, 36 biomedical engineers will walk this stage, the first graduating class from The University of Texas at Dallas.

We 36 owe our success to many factors — to the faculty, staff and personnel who made this day a reality. From the planning room those years ago, to professors who taught the classes, to the board who supported the decisions. Thank you.

However, the success of the biomedical engineers and every UT Dallas engineering major was never just dependent on the faculty. Success could not be defined just by exciting research or new buildings. Instead, success came from the community of UT Dallas. From the mechanical engineers who helped clarify thermodynamics, to the biology major who organized that late-night study session, and even to that ATEC major who had to explain to me the importance of Foley in film. We each had a hand to play in the achievements of our peers. So, to the community sitting before me today: Thank you, thank you for standing by and supporting one another, for supporting me, your friends down the hall in Res Hall South and that one guy in math class. For the past four years, I've seen community at work in the lives of my fellow students. We didn't get here today by ourselves, and we won't continue to succeed alone. Community is integral in our lives; it sustains us. I hope that as you go out today, little Comets, you find a new community to put your roots into. I also hope that you take a little bit of UTD with you as you go. Take the collaboration, the desire and commitment to change the world.

Guys, we've made it. We've done it. Now let's go do something about it.

Margaret Elise Bullock graduated summa cum laude from The University of Texas at Dallas with a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering. She was president of the Golden Key International Honour Society and has worked in the Student Success Center as a tutor in chemistry, math and physics. After graduation, she plans to pursue a Master of Science degree in bioengineering.

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