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Grad Always Wanted to be an Engineer, Earns Master’s Degree

College of Engineering and Computer Science Student Commencement Speech
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Sean Phayakapong, M.S. environmental engineering 

I want to pose a question: Who are your two heroes? Take a moment to really think of who they may be … Is it your mom and dad? Is it the person to your left, and right? Is it Superman and Batman? Perhaps it is Ironman and Captain America. Well, my answer is my 8-year-old self and my 80-year-old self.

To me, my 8-year-old self represents all the ambitions that I wanted growing up. The things that I said that I wanted to do. The things I dreamt of. Now, I stand before you as a master’s student graduating from the College of Engineering and Computer Science and as a commencement speaker. 

A little backstory … I don’t have a bachelor’s degree in STEM, but I always wanted to be an engineer after attending a career fair. When I was 8, it was no easy feat to juggle a full course load and work full time. Therefore, I challenge you to aspire, strive and want something so badly that you push yourself further than you think you are capable. Apply to that job that you don’t think you are fully qualified for, take the long road, stop and smell those roses, and go as far as you can dream because you never know where you will end up. But most importantly, never forget to call home.

I want to pose another question: Do you have any regrets in your life? Imagine the 80-year-old self as representing satisfaction. Are you satisfied with what you have accomplished? When you are 80 and reflect on the life you lived, will you regret any moment? Do you think you will live up to what you told yourself when you were 8 years old? 

We are all limited on time, so live it to its fullest. Never utter the words I should have done this or done that when I was younger. Let me tell you something: You are still young. So do not regret standing by and doing nothing. Don’t regret not taking the time to travel more or do something for the first time again. Even if it doesn’t work out, you can at least say that you have tried and it was an experience that you can always look back on.

As you are going off on your life journey, your career will be filling a large part of your life. To be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. As the saying goes, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Most likely, it will not come to you, but you will have to seek it, so don’t settle until you feel complete.

Congratulations Class of 2022, we made it through college, a pandemic and this speech. You are all individually and collectively, simply the best. Remember to continue to dream big and live a life that you are satisfied with. Make the 8-year-old and 80-year-old versions of yourselves proud.