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Bachelor of Science, International Political Economy

It is an honor to stand here and address you all at our commencement from UTD. I would love to start by saying that these past few years have been glorious. But, let’s be honest, getting through college is no cakewalk and often involved many inglorious moments. However, look at us now. I mean, really, take a second to look at yourself and look around you. Smile at your friends, wave at the crowd and take a deep breath. I think we all want to remember this moment exactly how it is. Today is a day that should always remain in your minds as a pinnacle of years of hard work.

As a transfer student, my experience at UTD has been slightly unique. I did not make the transfer due to necessity but because of choice. I am a strong believer that you learn more outside of the classroom than inside, and the place I had been attending lacked something unexplainable. This prompted my search for a university with diversity, energy and pizazz. And so I found The University of Texas at Dallas. My outsider analysis of UTD was that it had a quirky and exciting “Oooh, what’s going on over there?” kind of atmosphere. Peculiarities that seasoned students had grown accustomed to stood out. For example, it was socially acceptable to go to class in pajama pants, take naps in the middle of bookshelf rows and form lines for free stuff an hour before setup. It was fun to see a mixture of culture, curiosity and determination among students.

"Choosing to improve yourself despite all the obstacles is something to be applauded. No one can ever say that you are not a fighter because being at commencement means you have all just won the world championship."

Furthermore, what really made me fall for UTD was the welcoming culture. Say you are walking down a hallway and hear chatter, laughter and perhaps a mouthwatering smell. You curiously poke your head through a cracked door to peek at whatever is going on when suddenly someone notices you. It’s awkward. You begin explaining yourself and apologizing when instantly you are cut off, and instead of being scorned, you are welcomed in joyfully. Every time I witnessed this or experienced it, it warmed my heart, and I knew that I had come to the right university.

This room is full of stories. Every single one of us has endured personal challenges and carried private burdens these past years. As a first-generation college student, I can attest to the anxieties faced by those carrying the hopes and dreams of their entire families on their shoulders. Choosing to improve yourself despite all the obstacles is something to be applauded. No one can ever say that you are not a fighter because being at commencement means you have all just won the world championship. Despite the different paths we have traveled, we have supported each other, and in grand and intimate ways, UTD and its faculty have also supported us.

Today is a testament to the fact that we have not just gained knowledge, but we have learned to think. Through clubs and organizations, we have been able to band together with others for common causes in leadership and service. Along with victories, failures have been shared, and this has made us stronger. At the same time, there is a melancholy in the air as we strive to understand what it means to graduate.

Later today, many of us will feast and promptly fall into a food coma, during which we may ponder life or possibly have an existential crisis. I tried coming up with revelations or words of wisdom that you could later recall to help soothe the transition into the "real world." However, since I am in the same boat and just as nervous, my efforts seemed inadequate.

I realized that a synthesis of drops of wisdom from family and mentors would be more appropriate:

Wherever you end up, mold your situation into one with meaning and that provides you with transferrable skills and growth. Sulking and regretting will get you nowhere. Even if your hands are shaking and your neck is sweating, take the initiative to open up new choices and expand your potential beyond that of a job description. When you feel like fitting in, stand out. When you feel settled, take a risk. As we move on, we must have faith: faith that our professors have prepared us, faith that our families and friends will have our backs and, most importantly, faith in the capabilities we have spent years molding. So, whether you go on to attend graduate school or the workforce, never stop growing and never stop thinking. Congratulations, spring Class of 2016.

Marlene Campos graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in international political economy and a minor in Spanish and Hispanic area studies. She has served as a Supplemental Instruction Leader and is a member of the distinguished Kappa Delta Chi sorority. After taking time off to teach English abroad, she plans to pursue a master’s in international political economy at UT Dallas.