UT Dallas

Glimpse of Graduation, Spring 2019

Photo of Tevin Edney
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Brian Hoang
Aminah I. Khan
Ashton Rel
Zehra Rizvi
Emily Stinnett
Pranav Thanki
Weston Tuttle
Christian Vieira

Tevin Edney

Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies

Good afternoon esteemed friends, colleagues, professors, parents and, of course, students. This is the part where I tell you to dream big, work hard and follow your dreams. But you’ve already heard that before, right? And you know that’s expected of you. So, no. Today calls for something more relevant to our present circumstances and a touch more personal.

I want to talk about you. Yes, you. You know who you are. The single mother or father of two who managed to balance work and school, even if it was only three credits at a time. You’re too confident to fail. My fellow military veterans who hadn’t stepped foot in a classroom in years — which is daunting to say the least — who saw it only as a challenge to be surmounted. You’re too tough to fail. My colleagues who have traveled great distances for an opportunity to attend this school and not only exceed prospects here on campus, but in every other aspect of our cultures. Adaptable is too frail a word to describe you, and failure was never even a consideration. Those are but a few scenarios — but make no mistake — I know what it took for all of you to get here.

“You decide what happens next, how your story ends. You get to set the tone for your inner monologue. Want to know what mine is saying now? ‘Way to go. I never doubted you for a second!”

Full disclosure: I graduated from high school an average, scrawny kid with a modest parental upbringing. I figured the next natural step was college, and I was all set to go and be the first in my family to do it. Mere weeks before the start of the semester, my inner monologue started protesting. “You are going to fail because you are lazy. You’re going to party and be misled because you are gullible. You won’t make any friends because you are shy and uninteresting. Oh, and don’t get me started on the student loan debt and that freshman 15, but, by all means, go for it.”

It forced me to consider an alternative, and that’s when the “Be All You Can Be” Army commercial came on. The next thing you know, college became an afterthought because I thought 12-mile ruck marches would be easier. Yeah, I was wrong. It wasn’t until I left the military that I reconsidered college and would be attending as one of the older students. Sure enough, that same inner monologue returned. “There’s no way you’ll pass math again after all these years. It’s impossible to balance work and school, so why even try. You’ll be the only one in class with a beard and a retirement plan.”

I thought to myself, hmm, those are valid points. Thank goodness I did it anyway,  because it afforded me an opportunity to learn beside so many students who may have had that same inner monologue but had the courage to ignore it, or better yet, take it as a challenge. Through all those choices, or lack thereof, through trials, tribulations, coincidences and sheer dumb luck, we all ended up right here in these seats, graduating.

Do you know why? Because you came to an understanding of yourselves — what success and happiness means for you. You learned to decipher between which views, thoughts and opinions were borrowed and which ones were yours. You realized that we are all different and a path that might have worked for someone else might not work for you. You grasped that the world might try and give you the impression that, to be a big shot, you must be, act or look a certain way, with a specific background or name; but this is not true. You stopped listening to excuses to not be successful, and you committed to closing out this phase of your education.

You, yes, you. You know who you are. You decide what happens next, how your story ends. You get to set the tone for your inner monologue. Want to know what mine is saying now? “Way to go. I never doubted you for a second!” Congratulations, Class of 2019.

Tevin Edney is graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies. He served in the Army as a paratrooper, an unmanned aircraft operator and a specialist for the 57th Rough Terrain Sapper Company. At UT Dallas, he earned the Comet Transfer Scholarship, the Niela and Thomas Petrick Scholarship and the 2019 State Farm Veteran Award. He served as a volunteer and mentor for the Dallas Independent School District and Barbara Jordan Elementary School. Edney has worked at the Department of Veteran Affairs assisting disabled veterans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a hazard mitigation specialist and the Community Affairs branch of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. After graduation, he plans to continue working for the federal government while pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in justice policy and administration.