Raising a Glass to the McCombs 101st Graduating Class

Raising a Glass to the McCombs 101st Graduating Class

What are the odds?

What are the odds that I as born in Texas on January 3rd, 1995, made it all the way from preschool through high school, was accepted into UT Austin — and it just so happens that I was a member of the 100th McCombs Graduating Class in 2017?

I'd like to start off by recognizing the inspiring words of a close friend, Christina Wiener, who was the Commencement Speaker for our graduating class last year. After collaborating with her both in and out of the classroom over a few years, it was incredibly fulfilling to watch her take on this timeless role and take many monumental steps since then.

Now that a year has passed and many of my friends will be crossing the stage tomorrow, it is my hope that my proposed speech from last year will inspire reflection, creativity, and an unwavering dedication to leaving this world better than we found it.


17 years of schooling...

Recess turns to field trips, field trips to studying abroad in Hong Kong.

There were a few lectures — a few moments in time — that stopped me in my tracks. One of the most vivid, a leadership and ethics lecture during my freshman year here at The University of Texas.

My professor’s opening remark at 8am: “Brandon, define the word ‘thrive’ for me.” I immediately Googled ‘define thrive’ on my MacBook — he knew what I was going to do. With a smirk on his face, he walked across the room and gently closed my laptop.

This was the beginning of a very empowering lecture. 

He asserted, “The individuals who created language — the very first words on Earth — they are no different than you and they are certainly no better than you. Your words are your truth and you write your own definitions.” 

“When I ask you a question, I am asking to see through your eyes. Your unfiltered, authentic point-of-view. Definitions vary across languages and cultures and today, I want to hear from Brandon Scott Roye in Austin, Texas.” 

“Why don’t you give it another try?” 

To me, the word “thrive” is the string that ties together the highest-of-the-highs and the lowest-of-the-lows. No matter what life throws at me, I commit myself to positivity and seeing beauty in the people around me. As you can imagine, my definition was much different than that of my peers. 

Every class I have taken at UT Austin has been filled with students from across the globe. They come from all walks of life and represent many nationalities, religions, gender identities, and sexual orientations. With each conversation, I learn something new about myself and the world around me. The incredible professors here at UT Austin have challenged us to see the world in a new light. They encourage constructive debates and leverage their academic passions to inspire action within their students.

Most importantly, they understand that the best learning happens outside of the classroom:

  • A classroom at The University of Texas — is consulting entrepreneurial executives across Austin’s vibrant startup community.
  • A classroom at The University of Texas — is eating Tex-Mex and paddle boating on your professor's ranch in Central Texas.
  • A classroom at The University of Texas — is standing at the top of Victoria's Peak in Hong Kong, watching the sunset over the South China Sea.

Through these life-changing experiences, I have learned that I must first take off my own shoes in order to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.  

There is nothing more humbling than walking a mile through the streets of Hong Kong, surrounded by conversations in Mandarin and Cantonese, feeling anonymous and small, then hearing above the white-noise a UT Alumni scream “Hook ‘em!” and throw their horns up with a smile. 

These chance-encounters remind me of an eloquent piece of advice from the renowned humanitarian and actress, Audrey Hepburn. When asked about her iconic image, she simply responded, “For poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” 

There are endless benefits to attending The University of Texas at Austin. I believe that the most valuable are the people sitting to your left and right. This rapidly growing, international alumni network will be with us for the rest of your lives. 

Since the founding of this incredible program in 1917, our predecessors have committed themselves to developing one of the largest and most diverse business programs in the world for the next generation of influencers — for the students gathered here today. Just as my professor asked me to create my own definition of ‘thrive’, it is now time for us to assume our place in history as the 100th graduating class and redefine ‘education’ for the next 100 years. 

As students at “The University of What’s Next”, we have learned what it takes to drive innovation. We are empowered not only to lead and revolutionize industries, but to create entirely new industries. During a McCombs startup class last semester, my professor shared an impactful brainstorming formula to push the boundaries of innovation. 

The formula is simply: Passion + Problem.

Find your passion, identify a problem within that field, and create an unconventional, efficient solution. 

Through freely sharing our ideas, giving back to the university, and continuously questioning the norms of our society, we have the opportunity and responsibility to create an even brighter future for the next 100 years of students. 

On behalf of my class, I would like to sincerely thank President Fenves, our entire faculty and staff, as well as our family and friends gathered here today for enabling us to achieve this pivotal accomplishment in our lives. Today, we also celebrate 100 years of alumni who generously paved the way for our education. 

I am incredibly humbled to speak today on behalf of my peers. I will cherish the memories I have made here for the rest of my life and I will never forget where I came from. 

It all started here at The University of Texas at Austin and we stand here today — the 100th graduating class at the McCombs School of Business — ready to change the world.

 

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