One student recalled how she was so overwhelmed by IIT’s high academic standards during her first week at the university that she balked and took the first train back to her parents’ home in the suburbs. Another undergraduate, influenced by his love of science and invention, saw his educational experience in the context of atoms and molecules. The graduate student in the group asked God to bless his audience, IIT, and the United States of America.
Each spring, the Office of Student Affairs invites soon-to-be graduates to share their stories and inspiring words with their fellow classmates, family, and guests by trying out for the role of student speaker at the May Commencement ceremony. Nine members of the Class of 2015, including one graduate student, vied for this year’s honor on April 1 before a panel of five faculty and staff judges.
While each student’s narrative was unique, what they all had in common was a sense of pride and gratitude as they joined the ranks of IIT alumni. Here are excerpts from each of their speeches.
“We are students experiencing and adding to the dreams of our parents and loved ones; we carry their hopes, promises, and heritage. Let us keep moving forward and striving to achieve even more. We may not know what we are truly good at now, but those gifts will surface, for with time comes the discovery of certain skills and potential. But before then, let us remain hardworking and hopeful, for success is achieved through the paradigm of hard work and hope. Let’s dream bigger—and discover and remember.”
“Class of 2015, we can do anything so long as it is physically possible. This leaves 1, 2, 3… an infinite number of things to do. We are in the humble position of being a very small expression of the universe cooling off. But our smallness does not make us invalid. Humans are the first local instance where the universe has come to know itself, and now we stand at the cusp of the infinite. What will we tease out?”
“Throughout my time at IIT I have learned that we cannot soak up and appreciate all that life has to offer without being present and aware. With a mind that is open and receptive to our environment and surroundings, there is no limit. I have grown into a confident, young woman who is ready to take the world by storm! IIT has afforded me an excellent education and everlasting knowledge as well as magnificent friends and mentors.”
“Just remember where you came from—the school that united us all for this short stretch on our separate paths. Every one of us is a Scarlet Hawk of Illinois Institute of Technology. Now we must leave the nest, flap our wings, and soar. [In the words of] Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss: ‘You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy [or gal] who’ll decide where to go.’”
“IIT has provided us with the most excellent preparation we can have before moving into the working stage of our lives. After today, an exciting new chapter begins for us in the book of life. The prologue has been filled with experiences we have generated throughout our years as undergraduate students. IIT’s undergraduate population, which consists of 29 percent international students from a staggering 97 countries [data taken from IIT “Quick Facts,” fall 2014], has set a perfect networking stage for all of us. I feel that no matter where we go in the world, we will have someone ready to welcome us.”
“This academic year, we reached incredible milestones, in and out of IIT. We landed robots on other planets and comets, prototyped Perfect Power, and developed algorithms to predict crime. We also celebrated 125 years of excellence at Illinois Institute of Technology. All of these accomplishments originated from individuals like us who have the vision to innovate and the desire to make a change.”
“Today I stand with all of you who have faced disappointments, challenges, heartbreak, and several existential crises that invariably consumed you right before final exams as you watched the sun rise after a night of studying. As I look back, I realize that despite my rough start, these four years at IIT have been unexpected, spontaneous, and unpredictable—and some of the best times in my short life of 22 years.”
“The people you became close to [at IIT] are now like family. Whether you found your place within your major, your sports team, your club, your Greek organization, or even on move-in day, these people have shaped your experiences and now, your memories. The places you will go will be absolutely astounding, whether it be graduate school, medical school, or into the workforce. None of these options could have happened without the help of Illinois Tech and the services provided here.”
“I stand before you today as a Ph.D. candidate with many more answers than all of the questions that I had five years ago. All of my doubts have been replaced by energy, interest, encouragement, and hope for a brighter future. Now I hold the keys to success in my hands, armed with the knowledge and real-world experience that I need. My highly productive days in class and in the lab have made me more enthusiastic about working hard to reach my goals.”