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Bachelor of Science, Business Administration

I’d like to take a moment to thank President Richard Benson, Provost Hobson Wildenthal, Dean Andrew Blanchard, Dean Hasan Pirkul, distinguished guests, professors, families, friends and Class of 2016. It is an honor and privilege to be standing before you this morning. Being here today is a dream come true for me, and I’m sure a dream come true for every graduate. We should take a moment to congratulate each other. We finally made it! We should also take a moment to look up into the stands and thank our parents, family and friends for their unconditional support to achieve our degrees.

We all know that our parents have been an amazing influence in our lives. They may have been criticized for being tough on us, but we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for their time, patience and dedication. Every parent plays a different role for each graduate. For me, it was my mom who taught me how to manage money, and it was with her help I was able to pay my way through school. And today, I am walking across this stage debt-free. On the other hand, my father was not so strict; he is the water to my mom’s fire. He worked so hard for many years so that my family, and especially I, could have everything we needed and then some. He is the person I go to for advice, and he never fails to impress me with his wisdom.

I am a first-generation graduate, and I know that I’m not alone in that regard. As a first-generation college student, I know we especially value and understand the importance of setting goals. We are “a living testimony,” knowing that when you put your mind to something — take action, plan and follow through — you will enjoy terrific results. While our goal of earning a college degree has been our priority for the last few years, remember this isn’t your last goal. We are all collectively beginning the journey to achieve our next goal after graduation. College was just a warm-up for what’s ahead, and we should always aim to reach higher. Now ask yourself, “What am I doing after graduation that is getting me closer to where I want to be in the future?” Set a goal, make a plan. Remember, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

“This college journey has been tough for me, and I’m sure every graduate present has had a few dark and difficult days. But look at us today. We kept running and our hard work has paid off.”

We are ready for what tomorrow brings because of the unique journeys we have had in the Jindal School. As a nontraditional student, I wasn’t here for four years. I wasn’t a part of the 300-plus clubs on campus because I was working to pay my way. But for many of you on the floor, you have been blessed to take advantage of everything UT Dallas and the Jindal School has had to offer, and you are better for it. For me, my co-curricular learning came from employment.  

Despite my personal challenges, I was able to join Phi Theta Kappa before coming to UT Dallas. I was inspired and motivated to work hard when I learned that to be admitted to UT Dallas I needed a 3.6 GPA to earn their transfer scholarship. In Phi Theta Kappa, I learned leadership skills and why giving back to a community matters.

Like all of you who are graduating today, you probably had a single class or professor who made an extraordinary difference for you. For me that was my advanced sales professor. That professor pushed me every day. Before attending his class, I didn’t think I could sell anything to anybody, but Dr. Howard Dover challenged me. Today I consider my ability to sell one of my greatest strengths. My ability to sell was honed by participating in the Rookie Preview and pro-sales competitions, where we competed along with 120 students. There were moments when I was pushed out of my comfort zone, but it helped me tremendously, and it eventually helped the entire class reach its goals. It was difficult to become a good salesperson, but I conquered it through hard work and am delighted that I have acquired that skill.

This college journey has been tough for me, and I’m sure every graduate present has had a few dark and difficult days. But look at us today. We kept running and our hard work has paid off. We are all forever grateful for each other, our faculty/staff and the entire University and school that have made our years possible.

Being a student at UT Dallas has opened our eyes to opportunities and limitless future possibilities. This has been an amazing experience and I know we wouldn't trade it for anything.

As we leave UT Dallas today, remember if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. Thank you.


Mariela Pena Romo graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.

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