When the COVID-19 pandemic forced college seniors across the globe to finish their final semester online, it dramatically altered one of the most significant events of their lives: their college graduation ceremonies. However, UT Dallas refused to let quarantine restrictions and social distancing guidelines stop them from celebrating their students’ many accomplishments and triumphs — even if it was only online.
This spring, UT Dallas saw a record number of graduates – 4,935. The University awarded more undergraduate degrees this spring — 2,850 —than ever before. In addition, one hundred and twelve doctoral degrees have been certified, and 1,973 master’s degrees are expected to be conferred. The Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, alone, also saw a record number of graduates with 1,248 students earning their degrees. The spring 2020 cohort of computer science and software engineering graduates included 371 bachelor’s students, 295 master’s students, and 30 doctoral candidates.
In order to celebrate the many achievements of the UT Dallas CS Class of 2020 a unique online event was needed for the unique Class of 2020. It was only appropriate that the UT Dallas Computer Science Department would use technology to its advantage and host its Biannual Graduation Farewell Luncheon online where the newest graduates would be given a chance to reflect on the moments that shaped them and look forward to their bright future as alumni. The celebration featured appearances by UT Dallas Computer Science leaders, Dr. Gopal Gupta, Erik Jonsson Chair and department head of computer science, and Professor Shyam Karrah, and as well as an appearances by Andrew Olowu, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Axxess. Axxess is a health care technology company founded by John Olajide, BS’04, which donated $500,000 to establish the Axxess Scholars Program for computer science students at UT Dallas last fall. During his speech, Olowu congratulated the Spring 2020 graduating class of Comptuer Science and Software Engineering students on all their hard work. He also shared his journey from a college student to a CTO of a major healthcare technology company. In the course of his speech, Olowu shared helpful advice and words of encouragement to the Spring 2020 graduating class.
“Each of you will have to decide what a successful career looks like for yourself. I would like to share with you the importance of leadership excellence and vision. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received came from the CEO of Hewlett Packard at the time, Carly Fiorina. She said in life you have to make aggressive decisions. This simple bit of advice has served me well.” said Olowu. “It’s important to have a point of view and to take action! You have to be decisive, show leadership in order to achieve success. That’s what leaders do!” he continued.
“Take time to do what is right from the start, start paving the way for your personal development and lay out a foundation of integrity with a mindset of achieving future prosperity. Most of all, it is important to always believe that anything is possible. When working on your personal and professional development it is critical for you to believe in yourself, live with vision, be a leader, and strive for excellence every day,” he noted.
“The last piece of advice I want to impart on you is to never stop learning. Your education has only just begun and you now must adapt and keep a growth mindset. I am betting that some of you are thinking that now that you have graduated, the learning part of your life is over and that you know everything. Nothing could be farther from the truth. UT Dallas and the CS Department have helped you in many ways, preparing you for your career and along the way teaching good habits. They will both play a huge role in how successful you become.” Olowu concluded.
The graduation luncheon also served as an occasion to recognize top performing graduate and undergraduate students. The Kurt Holmes Prize, awarded to the top performing undergraduate student, was given to Lirit Fuksman. Lirit graduated at the top of his class with 47 A+ grades in his transcript. The Doctor Family Prize, given to the top performing graduate, went to Eric Rogers. Eric was in the Information Assurance track as well as a Scholarship For Service (SFS) scholar.
The CS Department also graduated its largest class of Computing Scholars Honors Program (CS2) students with 26 students (see list below). Each CS2 student was awarded a medal upon their graduation. Undergraduate and graduate students who earned a 3.95 GPA and above were also recognized for their extraordinary academic achievement included the following:
An in-person commencement ceremony will be scheduled once the campus can reopen and safely return to normal activities. Each of the University’s graduates will also receive a special celebration package in the mail later this month. When they receive their box, students are encouraged to share their moments of celebration using #utdgrad on social media channels and emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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 3,315 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,110 master’s students, 165 Ph.D. students, 52 tenure-track faculty members, and 44 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2019. 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.