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Zehra Rizvi

Bachelor of Science, Biology

I hope that you are proud of yourself. You sit here, amongst your loved ones who have been the wind beneath your wings for the past several years, an accomplished individual. You sit here, amongst your professors who have been guides of knowledge and mentors of life, a wiser individual. You sit here, amongst your peers who have slipped and ran and persevered on their own journeys, a cultivated individual. You sit here, a mosaic of experiences had and people met, and I hope that you are proud of yourself.

When I entered this University as a freshman with every day of my next four years planned out in a color-coded schedule, I didn’t worry about being proud of myself because I thought the world already was. I went to class because it was what I did in high school, and I ignored my professors’ advice on how to study because it was what I did in high school. I made friends I didn’t think would last, and it was fine because my GPA would. And then a semester passed, and I wondered what I came to college for. I wasn’t so proud of myself then.

“You sit here, a mosaic of experiences had and people met, and I hope that you are proud of yourself.”

It takes a lot to admit mistakes, and I want to thank UTD for making it so easy to admit mine and for making it so enticing to pick myself up, dust off my stumble and walk back onto my path, feet surer and stronger than before. I want to thank our numerous, diverse organizations that welcome students with open arms and help them find a community that fits them, that help give them a home away from home. I want to thank the students who give their time and choose to step up as mentors for others, who know their struggles don’t need to be repeated to be learned from. I want to thank our privilege to be able to attend a university where we have access to resources to care for not only our academic and physical selves, but also our emotional selves. And I, like so many of us, want to thank my family: my parents for sacrificing so much for me to be here, my brother for lessons well-learned, and my sisters for being a love I never have to doubt. Perhaps your family can’t join us today, but remember that all of us, your peers who struggled alongside you, have become a new family to support you, to celebrate your successes today.

And I don’t think my story of re-evaluating what college meant to me is so unique; many of us have run headfirst into roadblocks. And if there’s one thing these past few years have taught us, it’s that things don’t always go as planned. Maybe you didn’t ace that interview. Maybe you didn’t pick the right major. Maybe life threw you a curveball you didn’t prepare for. But isn’t that what makes college such a worthwhile experience? We all entered this University with ideas, with goals, and perhaps some of those remain untouched and sparkling in our journey so far. But perhaps some of those have been gently knocked down to make way for newer ones, for ones we never dreamed we’d pursue but are so grateful we did. Perhaps the path we were walking on diverged somewhere we couldn’t follow. But today we sit as people who learned to make our own paths, who learned to fly rather than to walk.

All of us came here for an education, but UTD has provided us with so much more. I’d love to share with you all a couple of things that make me proud to be a Comet. I’m proud to walk on campus and see diversity that makes room for every student to feel accepted. I’m proud to take the lessons I’ve learned from students of every background, of every religion, of every race, of every orientation with me when I walk into the next chapter. I’m proud to see a student body that cares about other students the same way it cares about itself. I’m proud to be surrounded by faculty and staff who have never let me doubt they are shoulders for me to lean on. I’m proud to study amongst peers who strive for nothing less than excellence and inspire me to do the same. I’m proud to be a Comet, and I’m proud to be here today, graduating with honors, with no regrets left for this University, with no dreams I didn’t get to chase, with you.

I want to leave you with a few words from a speech by Kim Nam Joon at the 2018 United Nations General Assembly in hopes that they inspire you as much as they have me: “Maybe I made a mistake yesterday, but yesterday’s me is still me. I am who I am today, with all my faults. Tomorrow I might be a tiny bit wiser, and that would be me, too. These faults and mistakes are what I am. I have come to love myself for who I was, who I am and who I hope to become.”

It has been an honor to speak in front of you all today. I wish you nothing but boundless success and an open mind for your future, wherever it might take you, and a reminder to be proud of what you’ve accomplished here and who you’ve become. Class of 2019, congratulations.


Zehra Rizvi, a Collegium V honors student, served as chair of Residential Student Affairs in Student Government, vice president of the Golden Key International Honor Society, co-president of Shadowing in Medicine, and as secretary for the Healthcare Management Association. She was also a Peer-Led Team Learning leader for General Chemistry I and II, and a teaching assistant for biology. She participated in She’s the First, Molding Doctors, the Freshman Mentor program and First Year Leader Program.

Rizvi has been on the dean's list several times and earned the Dean's Service Milestone Recognition. After graduation, she plans to enter the health care industry with a focus on public health, policy and advocacy. 

 

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