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JSOM Graduation Speech

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Hua Bai celebrates graduation with Wise the Owl

As is true for most of you sitting here today, this is my second university commencement, and most likely the last one. I tried to remember what my undergrad commencement speaker had said, and I have to say it helps me tremendously in writing this one, because it turned out I can’t remember a single word. Though I am certain it was inspiring.

As I began creating my speech, I realized, wow, this is way too difficult. What words besides “congratulations” could I use to inspire us all after a long journey of a master’s program?

I drafted three versions of my graduation speech:

  • One, I can talk about my trip to China with Dean Pirkul last year and how grateful I am for that opportunity and for his leadership and commitment to both students and alumni;
  • Two, I can quote Professor Dumbledore and spend five minutes talking about “it’s not our abilities but our choices to become who we are,” and “choosing JSOM shapes who we are,” which is true;
  • or, finally, I can take the risk of losing some of my American audience here and share my story at JSOM as an international student. I guarantee you, that everyone is part of this story.

During the past two years, I’ve teamed with students from a lot of places — India, Taiwan, Thailand, Ethiopia…some of my best friends are Vietnamese. But the most unforgettable team experience was with four Americans. I felt that I was ignored through the whole project. They almost never replied to my emails; they showed appreciation for each other’s work but not mine. It was my first semester, and I felt miserable. Looking back, I realize I had never given them an opportunity to know how I felt besides those long emails; I might have not fully shown my enthusiasm in participating in the discussion at all. I did things in my own way and expected other people, let alone those from an entirely different culture, to do the same.

Here is my first lesson at JSOM about communication: You can stay who you are, but you have to be able to adjust your way when dealing with different people and taking different roles. People are different, and that is a good thing in the global business environment.

Difference also turns into diversity and opportunity. The day after the Brussels attack happened, my office mate, Holly Rio who is the events and marketing manager of JSOM, and I were talking about the tragedy, and our conversation went from the terrorism threat in Europe, to how we thought governments should respond, to immigration issues, to the presidential election. We were both concerned because it’s a question with no immediate and perfect answer.

We went back to work with clouds above our heads. After a minute, Holly suddenly turned to me and said, “Do you know what’s still promising about this? It’s that we are able to sit in front of each other and exchange ideas about this. You with your amazing background and intelligence talking to someone from America like me, that’s the sort of environment where all solutions will come from! It’s hard to imagine this many years ago, but now, I do believe that meeting of minds will solve it.”

I think she’s right. Isn’t JSOM one of those places for meeting of minds? Nearly 40 percent of JSOM graduate students are international students. Frequent communication between every one of us has been impacting investment opportunities, immigration policies and diplomatic activities — you experience them, I experience them, we are all living proof of globalization. It is a huge world, and it’s greatly influencing us all.

Leaving this room, we will take the “college student” tag off and put on a new one, “JSOM alum,” for life. With a global vision rooted in our young network, I wish everybody success as you embark on your individual journey. While we may be vastly different in our backgrounds, culture and experiences, we have one thing in common — a degree from Jindal School of Management. This degree, I believe, has equipped us all to make a difference in this world we all share.

Hua Bai

Hua is an MS Marketing and Information Technology and Management student at the Naveen Jindal School of Management. She is a student worker in the JSOM Development and Alumni Relations Office and Vice President of Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at UT Dallas (FACSS-UTD). Hua helped launch the Jindal WeChat account and manages it day-to-day. She was a finalist for the 2016 UT Dallas Student Employee of the Year Award. Read more articles

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