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Ashton Rel

Bachelor of Science, Finance and Economics

Good afternoon, everyone! I’d like to start off by expressing my gratitude for this opportunity. I am so excited to be here with you all today, the great Class of 2019, on one of the most important days of our lives. Now before I begin, I want us all to join in giving thanks to those who helped us get to this point in our journey. Thank you to the classmates, whom we spent countless nights with, pulling all-nighters and drinking an unhealthy amount of coffee. Thank you to the parents and siblings whose love and encouragement gave us that extra motivation that we needed all too often. Thank you to the professors and staff, whose guidance and knowledge has provided us a solid foundation for our future endeavors. And thank you to the barista, who put that extra shot of espresso in your cappuccino when you were looking a tad rough that one morning before an exam.

Let us also thank Dr. Benson, Dean Pirkul, Dean Powell and Dean Kaplan for working day in and day out to better the University and our time here on this great campus. Without them, I personally do not know where I would be right now. You see, I am a transfer student who was nearly a college dropout. I was like a writer with a pen in my hand, a sheet of paper in front of me, but no story to tell you. However, in December of 2015, when I received an email that read “Welcome Comet,” The University of Texas at Dallas gave me a chance to begin a new story. Since that moment, they have given me every opportunity to better myself and reach my goals. In return, on behalf of the Class of 2019, I offer our eternal gratitude to the University and those who have worked so hard to make JSOM home to me and students from across the globe.

All right everybody, I want you to picture yourself at a split between two roads. Don’t worry. I am not about to insert a generic Robert Frost quote.  So, the first road is straight and narrow. There are no barriers and no impediments.  It is just a sleek, simple journey as far as the eye can see. Just imagine the exact opposite of Interstate 635 in Dallas. Now, the latter is a bit different. While the road itself seems relatively similar to the first, it is not. Because along the way there are a collection of barriers, pitfalls and detours that have been placed there to prevent and prolong our journey. Now, this second path has been ours. You see the latter is interchangeable with the realities of life because struggle and adversity have and will continue to lurk in the shadows behind us.

“After being so fortunate to have spent the past three great years here with you, and looking out at each of you now with your well-designed graduation caps, I feel like I can see the future. And it is you, Comets! The future is each and every one of us. Because of that fact, I know that the future is bright.”

However, I know that no matter the obstacle, nothing can prevent you and me from reaching our goals. Why? It’s simple — because we are driven. You see, the underlying fact is that we are made up of a diverse collective of hardworking individuals with a go-get-it mentality.  Standing here in front of you all, I truly mean what I say because we are not some ordinary campus. No! Each of you is extraordinary. Because we are the school of the parent who decided to come back to college to pave a new path, a better one, for their child. We are the commuter student who travels 40 miles each day navigating the horrid Highway 75 traffic in order to make their night classes after one of their three jobs. We are the international student who came here, facing an unprecedented amount of uncertainty, in order to obtain a one-of-a-kind UT Dallas education.

The reason why I place such an emphasis on our journey to this point is because often I feel like we downplay the obstacles and barriers we face and sadly, even our own accomplishments. But what we have done to get to this point, right here in this moment, is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. Because in a few short moments we will have concluded one of the most important periods of our lives. Whether your college journey was three years, four years or five years like mine, no matter what barriers were placed in front of us, we did it. You are here, with your friends, family and that random kid who always asked for a Scantron right before the test. We made it!

Now, I’m sure some of you are out there thinking, “Can this guy please hurry up? Ashton, I just want to go outside, take my graduation selfies and post them on the Gram (Instagram) #UTDone.”

So, I will leave you all with a short quote. As the great businessman who we all know and love, Michael Scott, once eloquently plagiarized: "You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take." So, when you leave campus today, go out into this world and take the shot. Like a Comet, shoot for the stars. Because at the end of it all there is only one defining factor that will determine your future. It is you. After being so fortunate to have spent the past three great years here with you, and looking out at each of you now with your well-designed graduation caps, I feel like I can see the future. And it is you, Comets! The future is each and every one of us. Because of that fact, I know that the future is bright. With that, congratulations, Class of 2019. You did it!


Ashton Rel is graduating magna cum laude with a dual bachelor's degree in finance and economics. He served as chairman of the Engagements Committee in the Dean’s Undergraduate Council and was a student leader for the Institute for Peer Mentoring, a branch of the Student Success Center. He was a member of the UT Dallas mock trial team and a fall 2017 Archer Fellow, working at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. He will join the Fuels Team at 7-Eleven Inc. as a fuels strategy and pricing analyst.

 

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