Before I get started, I want to give a heartfelt welcome and show my thanks to all the family, friends, faculty and staff who came to support us. The achievements being celebrated today are owed as much to you all, our respective support systems and mentors, as they are to the determination and perseverance that made us all Comets in the first place. Thank you and welcome, everybody, to the spring 2017 commencement at UT Dallas.
I must say, it feels fantastic to be here after having begun my time at UT Dallas five years ago as a freshman — a freshman who, by the way, knew absolutely nothing about my chosen major of computer science. If it’s not too presumptuous, I’d love to share with you several of the lessons I learned on my journey from square one to this stage. And don’t worry, I’ve already made sure you won’t be charged tuition for the knowledge I’m about to share with you.
One of my earliest lessons was that personal growth is the driving force of our industry. The world of engineering and computer science discoveries is ephemeral, ever-evolving and always in flux. As soon as a new breakthrough is made, it’s already old news, and researchers and developers are already working on the next big headline. At first glance, this might seem daunting — knowing that as soon as we master some tool or grasp a foreign concept, that knowledge could be rendered obsolete at any moment. It means we have to keep learning if we want to stay relevant.
What I found, though, is that continued learning is not something to be feared, but to be embraced. To keep learning is to keep growing. And if any of us hope to keep up, we must embrace the nature of our field and remain in a state of flux ourselves. To stay relevant, then, is to be tasked with our own personal growth.
Another valuable lesson I learned has to do with what’s most likely the reason why our discipline exists in the first place. As long as tasks take too much of people’s time, there will always be a need for engineers like us. We optimize, we modernize, and, when all else fails, we improvise. But in all seriousness, to be an engineer means to recognize that any job, no matter how quickly or easily completed, needs to be made even quicker and even easier. It means seeing ships travel across the ocean and wondering if you could fly across it instead. It means seeing an army of human calculators crunching numbers on paper and knowing the entire process should be automated by a single machine. It could even mean wanting to contact someone far away and creating a social media platform that lets you connect across different countries.
When it comes right down to it, to be an engineer means to give humanity the gift of more time. And as fleeting as life can sometimes feel, that’s a product that will always be in demand.
This brings me to the final and maybe most important realization I’ve gained as a student. It’s that, as an engineer, our most characteristic trait must be our insatiable drive to create new things. I’m a firm believer in the idea that a perfect Earth is borrowed from our children, but an imperfect one is handed to us by our parents.
Our responsibility, then, is to continue building upon it; to build bridges across chasms of ignorance; to illuminate past the frontiers of human knowledge with the light of innovation; to cultivate this world with the experience and tools of our time. And when we return this Earth to our descendants, we’ll have left on it the indelible mark of the progress of a generation of engineers. We will have built atop a broken world, and returned to our children a perfect one.
As our journey here at UTD comes to a close, I ask you, my colleagues, to remember the principles I’ve come to hold dear in my time here. Always remember to be responsible for your own growth, to be in the state of flux that so represents our discipline. Remember that, in all endeavors you engage in and all the efficiencies you create, your truest contribution to the world is the gift of more time. Be mindful of your duty to sow the seeds of innovation in a world that will be reaped by future generations.
As I said earlier, an imperfect Earth will be given to us by our ancestors, and when we leave this ceremony today, that Earth will become our responsibility. Seize the charge, leave your mark, and let your contributions whoosh like comets to astronomical heights. Let’s engineer a better world together. Thank you.
Dominic Joseph BS’16 graduated with a master’s degree in computer science. After graduation, he plans to move to San Francisco and work with the software engineering team at Lob.com.
Click here to view UT Dallas’ Glimpse Of Graduation Spring 2017 featuring each graduation speaker’s speech, President Benson’s commencement speech, and personal photos taken by graduating students themselves.
ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 2,100 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,000 MS master’s students, 150 PhD students, and 86 faculty members, as of Fall 2016. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.