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Uttara Thiagarajan

Bachelor of Science, Supply Chain Management and Information Technology and Systems

Thank you, Dr. Benson, Dr. Wildenthal, Dean Murphy, and Dean Pirkul, for giving me an opportunity to address the Class of 2017. Thank you to every single administrator, faculty and staff member who has impacted our lives and given us the knowledge to become the future leaders of the world. On behalf of the Class of 2017, welcome mothers and fathers, family from all over the world and friends who are here to celebrate our achievements today. We are forever thankful for your unwavering support and will always be indebted to you for our future successes and accolades.

And finally, to the stars of this morning: My fellow graduates, congratulations on accomplishing this milestone. Today’s ceremony is a perfect example that life isn’t always handed to you on a silver platter. Accomplishments require confidence, passion and the fortitude to inspire others. I ask each of you to take a moment and look around. To get to this very seat you are sitting in today, you fought a great fight, countless hours of struggling and little sleep. Let the passion that brought you to this milestone today drive you further as you progress toward tomorrow’s endeavors.

Glancing back three years ago, my 18-year-old self would be humored in disbelief with the privilege of delivering this commencement speech. What changed between then and now? A line from our alma mater says, “Lighting pathways through the dark.” That means paving a future for yourself by initiating that beginning spark in the darkness, asking a question some may be too scared to ask or simply fostering the internal curiosity.

Let’s think back to our freshman year. Most of us were scared and didn’t know what we were doing on the first day, the first week or even our first year at UT Dallas. Did we choose the right major? Will we find organizations that interest us? To answer these questions, we needed to find the courage to be introspective and honest with ourselves. We all had a little bit of courage to take our first major-related class that determined whether or not we made the right choice. We also had to have the courage to join or create an organization that we believed in and were passionate about. This is where step one, building up confidence, originated for us.

Once we found that initial spark of courage, we channeled this newfound fire into the activities around us and cultivated a passion for our interests; this is the second step in an accomplishment. For me, partaking in the JSOM Dean’s Council allowed business students to be liaisons between undergraduates and the deans. Student Government is geared toward engendering change on campus. The Davidson Management Honors Program served to help students challenge themselves to push the envelope while also promoting professional development. Kappa Alpha Theta focused on helping women hone leadership skills and build connections internationally.

Whatever on-campus organization we joined, they all served as stepping stones for us to change that internal curiosity into a passionate endeavor. Fortunately for me, these four organizations helped me pave a future for myself. I am sure there were times when many of us wanted to give up, but we looked to our passion to motivate us to continue. And in the end, we became more aware and appreciative individuals on campus.

“A line from our alma mater says, ‘Lighting pathways through the dark.’ That means paving a future for yourself by initiating that beginning spark in the darkness, asking a question some may be too scared to ask or simply fostering the internal curiosity.”

After sparking that initial tenacity and passion, we moved onto the final yet most essential step in an accomplishment: inspiring others. As future leaders, we must ignite the passion in the people around us to inspire them to fervently pursue their aspirations. Only if you invest in yourself today, can you carve a future for tomorrow, and motivate people to change the world the following day. I encourage you today to be more proactive and take the first step in whatever you are zealous about.

Personally, I followed these steps my freshman year, when I managed to muster my confidence and approached Dr. Kaplan regarding Dean’s Council and Student Government opportunities. She saw my leadership potential even before I did, and she supported me as I ardently pursued my collegiate endeavors as ranking and recognitions chair and residential student affairs chair. I was her first-year leader, and she gave me the chance to inspire incoming freshman business students to chase their dreams. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making an indelible impact in my life.

Secondly, I would like to thank my parents who have made immense sacrifices such as immigrating to this great country, so I could stand before you today and deliver this speech.

Lastly, I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my friends who helped provide my home away from home. Let us take a moment to remember and thank the people who’ve influenced the person you’ve become and helped carve the path that you’ve taken thus far. Whether they’re sitting here in this room, live-streaming it from afar, or elsewhere, without them we wouldn’t be the people we are today, entrusted to make our own impact on this world.

Finally, as you assimilate yourself into the next chapter of your life, remember that you may never be invited to the table; you will sometimes have to fight for your spot there. In your journey to doing so, make sure you continue to positively influence others along the way. Success is a team effort, and the team we’re on is humanity. While igniting the flame to your success and future, let your passion glow through service to your community, your humility of your accolades, and your motivation to boost the morale of your peers.

Congratulations Class of 2017. This is your new beginning, so go on ahead and start your next journey. Pave your path with confidence, passion and the fortitude to inspire others.

Uttara Thiagarajan graduated magna cum laude with bachelor’s degrees in supply chain management and information technology and systems. She was a research assistant for Dr. Marilyn Kaplan and interned at Sherwin-Williams and Bell Helicopter. A member of Kappa Alpha Theta, she served as a senator in Student Government and Dean’s Council member. After graduation, she plans to continue in the fast-track MS in Supply Chain Management program.

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