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Master of Science, Systems Engineering and Management

What does one say to fellow graduates at the commencement ceremony? How does one decide which thoughts to share? What is there left to be said? What simultaneously propels us forward and takes us down memory lane? What says, "Kudos! Awesome! We did great!" as well as, "This is just the beginning, there are far more adventures to explore"?

For this is just the beginning – the word commencement implies exactly that. But surely, you've all heard that before.

So let me not try anything new today. Please allow my speech to be a mere refresher of what we already know to be true. And first, let me start by getting some long overdue gratitude out of the way.

I say thank you to our friends and family: We couldn't have been here today without your cheer. And not just today when we raise our caps, but throughout this journey, which often took tolls on our social and family lives, thanks especially to my parents and family for your support and understanding. Co-workers and employers, we're grateful for your support and for that extra pat on the shoulders when it was sorely needed. Respected professors and faculty members, thank you for both keeping us in check and for taking us out of our comfort zones – we are in debt to your guidance.

And, to you fellow graduates, especially my esteemed classmates, to you I must personally offer my humble thanks, for when I walked through these doors of UT Dallas a second time, after finishing my bachelor's here, I mistakenly thought that I had learned all that there was to learn; that this new degree was merely going to be a check mark on my bucket list and perhaps an impressive add-on to my LinkedIn profile. And, oh boy, was I wrong. You've challenged me, inspired me, made me push my limits and grow. Each and every one of you I've crossed paths with here at UT Dallas has been directly or indirectly crucial to my growth – and for that, I remain grateful.

And this brings me to the topic that I thought would be worthy of sharing: To talk about us, our generation and our times. How we inspire one another to be better. How we network with each other and get the job done in a far more effective and fulfilling way than was ever possible before. How we come together and turn out to be greater as a whole than the simple sum of our individual parts.

"Each and every one of you I've crossed paths with here at UT Dallas has been directly or indirectly crucial to my growth – and for that, I remain grateful."

Yes, sure, we come across as a tad bit narcissistic at times: We Instagram restaurant food a bit too much, we tweet way too many selfies and, thanks to Facebook, we receive more birthday greetings than ever before. But, hey, have we not also harnessed this power of social media for the greater good – from getting group school projects done to creating job and business opportunities? From rallying for social causes to ensuring charity events get the due they deserve? Isn't the world that much smaller today and yet, the opportunities that much bigger and better because of this ever-expanding network of ours?

And what is a social network – any network – without us, the people? No matter what age group or technological expertise you slot yourselves in, you can't deny we live in changing, improving times. We welcome way more diversity today – both in terms of origins and opinions. We assert better, aspire better and adapt better. We've experienced technical innovations and the effects of globalization firsthand and far more than any other generation. We've survived 2008's economic crash, and, hopefully, we've now learned to manage our finances better. We create opportunities where there may be none, and we thrive in the fateful breaks that we receive along the way. Our sense of personal mission is stronger than ever, but with an eye for the greater, common good. We're optimistic and resourceful. We think and we act.

But surely it's not all roses and rainbows; we haven't broken through many of our barriers. There is still work to be done to make our society and the world at large a better, brighter place. And perhaps that is where we step in – we, this graduating class of 2015. We've received a world-class education from a top-notch university – and yes, Comets, forever be proud of your alma mater, that diversity, synergy and innovation I was referring to earlier are all core values of UT Dallas and have been incorporated into our education and experience here. Yes, we have completed our adventure at this school, and the onus is now on us to carry the lessons forward.

So today, fellow graduates, I do ask you to celebrate. You've earned this. And I say "Kudos, great job, awesome – well done!" and I also remind you of these immortal words of Mufasa – "Everything the light touches is our kingdom."

So, let our lights shine and let our kingdoms expand. We've scaled one mountain today, and now let a new adventure begin. Congrats, Class of 2015. We did it.

Adeel Tasnim graduated with a Master of Science degree in systems engineering and management. He previously completed a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and information management at UT Dallas. He has been involved in several organizations on campus including Graduate Business Society, Management Consulting Group, Social Impact Group and member of International Honor Society. After graduation he wants to earn Project Management Professional certification and continue his MBA.

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