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CS Student Speakers Inspire at University Commencement Ceremony

Below are spring’23 CS graduation commencement speeches made by Cady Baltz, BS in CS, and Sukanya Baichwal, MS in CS.

Below is Cady Baltz speech.

Hello everyone! I am so honored to be a part of this day as we celebrate the Class of 2023. I also would like to extend a warm welcome to all of the family, friends, faculty and staff here whose support has made this journey possible for all of us.

When I first started writing my graduation speech, I struggled. How could I sufficiently celebrate the accomplishments of my amazing peers? After all, as a STEM major, I am not exactly the most eloquent speaker. But luckily for me, a new tool was recently released that could potentially help me out with this. As computer science majors, I’m sure most of you here today have had the chance to test out ChatGPT. So, I decided to ask ChatGPT to write my graduation speech. And this is that speech … just kidding!

But ChatGPT’s speech was pretty inspirational. Here’s an excerpt: “Now, as you prepare to embark on your own unique journeys, I urge you to embrace the spirit of exploration, experimentation and discovery that is at the heart of computer science.” Isn’t that beautiful? So my next thought was, “How can I possibly write my own speech better than that?”

But that led me to think more broadly — how can we, future computer scientists who might soon build these revolutionary emerging technologies, benefit from them without becoming overly dependent on them? Now that AI can even write its own computer code, what unique skills do we possess that make our new college degrees valuable in today’s world?

After all, there has been a lot of talk lately about whether ChatGPT will steal all of our jobs. However, I am not too worried about this being the case for the room full of graduates here today, and I have three reasons why.

The first would be the creativity I witnessed UTD students exhibit every day. I had the chance to be a judge at WEHack here a few months ago, and I was amazed by the unique projects that students could produce in just 24 hours, from artistic video games to intense machine-learning algorithms. Throughout my time in coding classes, I observed how even with the most straightforward assignment, there would always be students who went above and beyond the requirements in the most inventive ways. So, I feel confident that students from this school will always be able to approach problems with solutions that are more innovative than anything ChatGPT could write itself.

The second biggest strength I believe we have is our ability to connect with each other. Computer science is often thought of as one of the more “antisocial” majors, but my experience has proven that assumption to be incorrect. I will forever be grateful for the friendship, support and mentorship I have received from my peers. Whether through my classmates seemingly being online 24/7 to answer questions in the class Discord, or through the dedication of student leaders in planning career and social events, I have found the Jonsson School to be an incredibly welcoming community. This spirit of collaboration and supporting the success of one other are traits that I believe give us the advantage over AI.

The final reason is the boundless ambition demonstrated by UT Dallas students. One of my favorite parts of our culture is that the students here put in the work necessary to be successful. UTD students don’t mess around when it comes to academics — there’s a reason they had to start keeping the library open 24 hours a day. Even beyond academics, I have been inspired by how much time students here will dedicate to their extracurricular pursuits. I honestly believe that Jonsson School student organizations and their events run more smoothly than a lot of companies, and that is all thanks to countless unpaid hours of work put in by student leaders every semester. Overall, I believe that this level of grit and dedication is another factor that ensures we are ready to succeed in a world that innovates more and more rapidly every day.

As computer science and software engineering graduates, we are fortunate to be at the forefront of a field that impacts every single industry. As we have seen just this year, a single program like ChatGPT has the potential to completely change how we search the internet, learn new topics and maybe even write our graduation speeches. While these rapid changes can be scary at times, we must remember that our creativity, ability to connect with each other and individual passions will guide us in successfully shaping the technologies that define our world. As we all move forward into the next stage of our lives, whether that is graduate school, the professional world or any other adventure, we can take comfort in the fact that our human nature is our strength and not a weakness.

Congratulations again to the Class of 2023. I cannot wait to see what you accomplish!

From Germantown, Tennessee, Cady Baltz is graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. She has served as the vice president of the Society of Women Engineers and as the logistics director of WEHack, UT Dallas’ first gender-inclusive hackathon. She was also a project manager for the Association for Computing Machinery and has performed in Theatre UTD productions. Passionate about learning languages, she spent a semester abroad studying French in Paris and took Chinese courses at UTD. She was named a Grace Hopper Scholar, a Tapia Scholar and a member of the Society of Women Engineers Collegiate Leadership Institute. She has helped mentor younger women in tech through the Ladies in Tech Mentorship Program and the Rewriting the Code Rising Leaders Institute. She is a member of the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program, the CS2 Computing Scholars program and Phi Kappa Phi. To prepare for the professional world, she interned with Meta, Apple and State Farm. After graduation, she plans to work as a software engineer at Netflix in California.

Below is Sukanya Baichwal speech.

Good afternoon, esteemed faculty, Class of 2023, our friends and families. Congratulations! We made it! It is with great pleasure that I stand before you today, as your commencement speaker, feeling immensely proud of all of us.

Thinking makes us decide! Decisions make us act! Actions transform us! Transformations make us evolved! Every significant chapter in our lives begins with a simple thought, filled with massive apprehensions. Overcoming them and realizing that thought into reality takes courage and belief that we will make it through with flying colors.

My journey also started with that one thought of pursuing my master’s degree, creating a riot in my head on the hows and the whens and the whats. These reservations turned into conviction as I researched The University of Texas at Dallas. Every piece of information that I gathered led me to UT Dallas.

With a mighty zeal to accomplish an undertaking, I knocked on the doors of UT Dallas on my first day of classes and so did each one of us on our first days. We thought! We decided! We acted!

Let me take all of us down our memory lanes, when we first stepped into this magnificent locale for the first time, the first time we all admired the stellar premises of this university, our first homework, the first time we mustered some courage to ask a question in our class, the first word of praise from a professor, the first time we befriended someone sitting next to us, and so many other firsts. We had a beautiful set of firsts at UTD, didn’t we? But did we stop at firsts? No, we didn’t!

We had the most fascinating days here, with each day bringing in a gush of new challenges and mind you, these challenges came with deadlines. With every homework, every exam and every project, we grew better every passing day. A special mention of admiration to the curriculum and the faculty support that not just made us realize our potential, but they gave us an opportunity to grow our potential and outdo ourselves day in and day out, deepening the knowledge in our respective courses.

I want to take a moment and express my gratitude on behalf of all of us, to all our professors and the teaching staff for having taught us the true value of knowledge and the wonderful realm of opportunities that we can build on our own with this knowledge.

On top of it, UT Dallas gave us incredible resources in terms of learning materials and a brilliant infrastructure. All of this empowered us in a way that not just nourished but enhanced our personalities. We transformed!

Now that I open the floodgates of memory, beautiful moments pass my mind. Moments spent sharing a good laugh with our friends on this campus, those spent studying for an exam, frantic moments just before a deadline, participating in hackathons and winning them, too, engaging in and contributing to different clubs at UT Dallas.

And in all these moments, we evolved! We evolved to become better people armed with academic brilliance and everything UT Dallas has given us to enhance our individual selves. We will always cherish all that we have learned here, at school, and continue evolving because after all, this learning will last for a lifetime!

Today, we are celebrating this day with our friends, professors and loved ones. Without their support and encouragement, this wouldn’t have been possible. Thank you, to all of you.

I want to thank my mom Shailaja Baichwal for always being an inspiration to me, and for always telling me, “Never lose enthusiasm despite whatever curveballs life throws at you.” I want to thank my sister Meghana Baichwal for always being my guide, my friend and my confidante. Also, my father, who is not with us today. I know he will always look after me from wherever he is and is proud of me.

Once again, I congratulate all of you, for having achieved a massive feat and climbing the rung of graduation on your career ladder. Here’s wishing all the very best to all of you. Thank you.

Sukanya Baichwal is an international student from Karnataka, India. She is graduating with a master’s degree in computer science, specializing in data science. She takes a keen interest in the applications of computer science and technology and how they solve real-world problems. She has participated in hackathons and was a winner at UTD HackReason 2022. She also has worked on several projects in her specialization. She interned at Amazon Robotics this past summer as a software developer. She has been an orator all her life and has pursued public speaking through the UT Dallas’ Toastmasters’ club, holding officer positions and conducting open house events. She is currently an area director at Toastmasters’ International, District 50. She has always had a penchant for dancing and is currently learning an Indian classical dance form called Kathak. After graduation, she plans to work at Miracle Software Systems Inc. as a programmer analyst.

The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 4,000 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,010 master’s students, 140 Ph.D. students,  52 tenure-track faculty members, and 42 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2022. 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.

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