UT Dallas to Celebrate More Than 3,000 New Grads
3 Days of Commencement Ceremonies Planned to Handle Record Numbers
Continued growth at UT Dallas has pushed the University's number of graduates 15 percent higher than last spring.
With a record seven commencement ceremonies this week, UT Dallas is preparing for its largest spring graduation cohort ever, with 3,024 students projected to complete their degrees, nearly a 15-percent increase over last year.
The University has extended the commencement ceremonies over three days to accommodate the greater number of graduates.
The commencement ceremonies will take place at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 16; and at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on both Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18. All ceremonies are in the University’s Activity Center. Each should last about two hours.
For Cristina Garcia, a single mother who survived Hurricane Katrina, getting a degree in political science will model for her young daughter how to pursue a better life. Garcia will graduate summa cum laude this year from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.
Garcia, 35, was living in New Orleans in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit. After evacuating to a relative’s home in San Antonio, she watched on television as the levees broke. The tragedy sparked a desire to learn more about the inner workings of government. She knew she had to continue her education when her daughter was born in May 2008.
“How am I going to tell this girl to finish school if I haven’t?” she recalled thinking.
At age 30, Garcia enrolled at Collin County Community College, where she was mentored by Dr. Millie Black, UT Dallas’ first PhD graduate in political science.
She transferred to UT Dallas in fall 2011. Today, she is the Texas state deputy director for young adults for LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), working as a volunteer with 43 college councils.
This commitment to public service and student leadership was recognized last year when Garcia became one of 20 students in the U.S. to receive the Pearson Prize in Higher Education Scholarship. She wants to pursue a master’s degree and a PhD in political science at UT Dallas.
“I want to leave a legacy,” Garcia said. She hopes to one day run a presidential campaign.
Cristina Garcia will pursue graduate studies in political science at UT Dallas.
Knowing the obstacles she’s overcome, graduation will probably be very emotional, Garcia added. “I’m very proud of myself, especially when my daughter says, ‘Mom, you’re gwaduating!’ And my parents are my guardian angels. They’re super-excited. They now know that I’m going to be OK.”
Despite a very different set of challenges, Katelyn Hanks will earn a degree in management information systems. Born with cerebral palsy, Hanks cannot speak. She didn’t walk until she was 7 and didn’t learn to read and write until she was 11. Today, she communicates using sign language and a hand-held computer that talks for her.
Yet Hanks refuses to be singled out for special treatment, say those who know her. She uses a wheelchair to get around campus after riding the DART train from her parents’ home in Rowlett.
“Katelyn actively participates in class and always wants to be treated the same as the other students despite the incredible challenges she faces every day,” said Tiffany Bortz, associate director of the undergraduate accounting program.
Katelyn Hanks (left) received the Pride, Enthusiasm and Passion Award from the JSOM accounting department. She is shown with senior lecturer Mary Beth Goodrich.
She chose UT Dallas because her father, Anthoney Hanks, had received an MBA and a master’s degree in management information systems here. Her parents and grandparents were on hand May 6 when she received the Pride, Enthusiasm and Passion Award from the accounting department in the Naveen Jindal School of Management.
“She’s a spitfire,” said Mary Beth Goodrich, senior lecturer in accounting and Hanks’ business coach. “If there’s a student who’s ever shown they’re determined, it’s Katelyn. She knows what she wants.”
Hanks knew she wanted to finish college “because I will have an easier time finding a good salary job, not working for minimum wage all my life.” She hopes to get a job in medical information systems.
When Steven Foland earns his Ph.D in electrical engineering from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, he wants to continue encouraging young people to overcome their fears about learning science and technology. As chair of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Dallas Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD), Foland spearheaded a science discovery camp with the Dallas Public Library to provide middle school students with hands-on science and engineering projects. A grant application he co-authored secured funding for the camp through 2014.
Steven Foland, who will earn a doctorate in electrical engineering, has been praised for his efforts to promote STEM education in the Dallas area.
“The most defeating attitude I hear is, ‘Only certain people are good at science.’ If a student isn’t good at basketball, he assumes it’s because he hasn’t practiced; if he isn’t doing well in science, he assumes it’s because he was born that way. We’re trying to show kids that if you practice, science can be fun for anyone,” Foland said.
Foland’s efforts have been recognized. He was awarded the 2012 IEEE Region 5 Outstanding Individual GOLD Member Achievement award for expanding the activities of Dallas GOLD group and promoting STEM education in the Dallas area. He also received the Dallas IEEE section’s Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award.
Foland and his wife have since founded The Shoulders of Giants Inc., a nonprofit organization that gives engineers and scientists a venue to use their problem-solving expertise to help demystify the STEM fields for children and youth. Unlike plumbers who may not want to fix their own sinks, Foland said engineers “don’t suffer from work fatigue. They love to tinker.”
“It’s great to focus that passion so that others can benefit from it,” he said. “We’re harnessing the energy of technical professionals to develop new ways of presenting complex topics in a meaningful way.”
When the spring 2013 graduates walk the stage this week, the University will have conferred more than 82,600 degrees during its 44-year history.
Among those expected to receive degrees are 1,467 graduate students and PhD candidates and 1557 undergraduates. The largest of UT Dallas’ seven schools, the Naveen Jindal School of Management, will award the most degrees: 1,232.
Next are the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science with 526; the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences with 390; the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics with 339; the School of Arts and Humanities with 230; the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences with 207; and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies with 100.
Robert Chalwell Jr.
Students to Deliver Grad Speeches
In keeping with tradition, seven students have been chosen as commencement speakers. UT Dallas President David E. Daniel also will address audiences.
Rose Ashraf — Bachelor's in psychology, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Robert Chalwell Jr. — PhD in political science, School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences
Chelsea Garner — Master's in accounting, Jindal School of Management
Alan Howell — Master's in supply chain management, Jindal School of Management
Sachin Shah — Bachelor's in biology, School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Lance Sweeney — Bachelor's in mechanical engineering, Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science
Teresa Tran — Bachelor's in accounting, bachelor's in finance, Jindal School of Management
The schedule of commencement events is as follows:
Tuesday, May 146 p.m. Veteran Graduation Cord Ceremony (McDermott Suite)
Thursday, May 1610 a.m. Doctoral Hooding Ceremony (Clark Center) 1 p.m.Honors Convocation Ceremony 4 p.m. School of Arts and Humanities;School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences
Friday, May 1710 a.m. Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science 1 p.m.School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4 p.m. School of Interdisciplinary Studies;Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Saturday, May 1810 a.m. Naveen Jindal School of ManagementUndergraduates 1 p.m.Naveen Jindal School of ManagementGraduates 1 4 p.m. Naveen Jindal School of ManagementGraduates 2
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].