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Bachelor of Science, Neuroscience

Good afternoon faculty, staff, family and friends! Thank you for joining us today to witness the graduation of the fall Class of 2016 from The University of Texas at Dallas!

This day is the result of many years of hard work and wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of our talented professors and the support from the parents of our newly minted graduates.

Professors, thank you for engaging our minds around interesting subjects and for encouraging us to push ourselves past the expectations of the classroom. Foremost, thank you for challenging us. We know you all meet in secret to plan exam dates so that we have multiple exams in close proximity, multiple times throughout the semester. You're very clever calling it "midterms." We get it, it's because we spend the middle three months of every semester in “mid-terms.”

Parents, thank you first and foremost, for supporting us throughout our college careers. I believe many of us would agree that we would not be here, graduating from UTD or in existence, really, if it weren't for our parents. Over the past few years, you've witnessed how much we've changed — how much we've learned about our majors and ourselves and how much we've grown up into adults we hope you're proud of.

Now, to the graduates, the reason why we are all here today. I, a graduate just like yourself, am tasked with the responsibility of imparting some of my wisdom and advice to you even though, we are essentially in the same boat. The truth is, I don't have any experience past being a student and it would be very brash of me to pass on advice about what to expect past this point. I have no idea what to expect after today. What I can tell you, is what I've witnessed and experienced here at UTD.

This past semester, I was enrolled in a few core classes that I had neglected to take earlier. You know what core classes have a lot of? Wide-eyed, caffeinated, jubilant freshmen. I had forgotten what it was like to be a freshman. How exciting it was to start something and not know how it will end.

But sometime around sophomore and junior year, the freshman buzz wears off and is replaced by the knowledge that one day we will graduate and be back at square one. Except this time, there won’t be a curated degree plan on how to succeed at life. We will embark on a new journey where we will have to make decisions and choices that have the potential to change our lives dramatically.

This is exactly how I viewed college as a freshman — a time of tough choices, hard work and unknown outcomes. I looked forward to succeeding! But now you may find yourself looking towards the future — the unknown future — and thinking, “Oh gee, I’m going to have to make a lot of tough choices, and there’s going to be hard work, and I don’t even know how it will all turn out. What if I fail?”

Well, what’s so bad about failure? Failure, like success, is a sign that you tried. You took a risk. Isn’t that what we are told to do? One of the most common life regrets is not taking enough risks.  

“We admire those who pioneer new paths for themselves and others. But it seems when we look at ourselves, we might think we are unable to pursue such challenges. But trust me, you can succeed at challenges.”

I believe we all want to think we are courageous enough to take risks and to put ourselves out there. But do we? We will confront many more challenges in our lives. Some will be big and some small. In these speeches, you are reminded to challenge yourself and take risks beyond UTD. Saying that is easy. We hear it all the time. Following through is hard. We admire those who pioneer new paths for themselves and others. But it seems when we look at ourselves, we might think we are unable to pursue such challenges. But trust me, you can succeed at challenges.

I think this period in our lives is the optimal time to take risks. By taking a risk and putting yourself out there, you are allowing yourself to fail, yes, but you are also opening yourself up to the possibility of success. And if you do fail or make a mistake? Then learn from it and voila, you now have experience.

I hope in the coming years we see our experience here as being just as valuable as the degree we’ve been awarded. Today we honor every accomplishment that made you feel proud. Today we honor every letdown that made you push yourself harder. Today we honor every time a professor had to cancel class leaving you with extra time to study for that test that you weren’t all that prepared for. Today we honor all the challenges we faced to get to this point. Today we honor what this institution has taught us and today, Class of 2016, we honor you. Thank you.


Anna Morales graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience. She began her research career at UTD with a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Research Scholarship in 2013. Since then, she has co-authored a paper on autism, presented research at four conferences and received a research scholarship to study the effect of nicotine exposure on the dopamine system of the brain. She has been a teacher’s assistant in biology and neuropharmacology and served as last year’s president of UTD’s Women in Science Alliance.

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