More than a decade of schooling and work reached its conclusion for some now-former students of Texas A&M, as they crossed the stage at the first of six undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies Thursday morning.
“As you move across the stage towards your calling, who knows what exciting opportunities and daunting challenges await you,” Elaine Mendoza, a Texas A&M University System regent, said from the stage in Reed Arena. “And you can bet there will be both, and many of each, but know this, you are prepared in your skills and your ability to think creatively, and you have determination to stay the course. Not even a pandemic can stop you.”
She encouraged the graduates to live the core values, saying that is what makes them different, as Aggies, and what will help them achieve their dreams.
“Graduates, we are counting on you to do great things, to be innovators, problem solvers, good teammates, who then create solutions that make a difference to our lives,” she said. “We need you, so live with purpose, Godspeed, and congratulations.”
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Thursday’s graduation was one of 15 across Texas A&M University’s various campuses throughout the month that will see a total of 11,203 students receive their degrees. It was the first of six undergraduate and graduate ceremonies in College Station at Reed Arena.
Cullen Eppright, who received his bachelor’s degree in agribusiness Thursday morning, addressed his peers, reflecting on the essay topic he received when applying to Texas A&M. He said it asked the applicant to imagine they had a ticket and to respond with where they would go, what they would do and what would happen once they got to their destination.
He said he thought about writing an essay about feeding the world to impress the person reviewing the application, but realized that was not why he was applying to the university.
“It was for quality academics, rich student life, the post-graduation network and reinvestment in the future,” he said. “That’s when it hit me; the ticket in my hand was to Texas A&M.”
Some have had those tickets passed on to them from generations of Aggies, such as his great-uncle who was the class of 1902, he said, while others received their ticket not knowing much about the university.
“No matter the circumstance, we all punched our ticket to enter the best university in the world,” said Eppright, who also involved in the Corps of Cadets. The annual commissioning ceremony will take place during Friday morning’s graduation.
“This ticket is founded on four simple pillars: innovative and transformational academics, the Aggie experience while on campus, the Aggie network, and a burning desire to give back.”
The good and the bad experiences had on campus prepared them, he said, for their futures. And when it comes to what makes Texas A&M special, he said, it is the people.
He said their time on campus was a “warm up” to what it means to be an Aggie.
“We are all extremely fortunate to be given a ticket to attend the best, the most prestigious university: Texas A&M,” he said. “So I ask: How are you going to continue to use your ticket and who are you going to pass the ticket along to?”
Porter Garner, president and CEO of the Association of Former Students, assured the graduates that they will forever be a Texas Aggie and will never be alone, saying Aggies helping Aggies, is the oldest tradition.
Avery Clark, who received her bachelor’s degree in forensic and investigative sciences Thursday, said the commencement represents the start to a new chapter in life, moving from current student to former student.
Monet Hall, who received a master’s in architecture Thursday morning and delivered the invocation, said the ceremony is a “nice ending” to her journey, even though that journey might not be over yet.
“I didn’t really know if I wanted to go to college in the beginning, and now I’m here obviously getting a master’s, and I have professors saying, ‘Oh are you getting your Ph.D.?’ So I might get a Ph.D.; we don’t know,” she said. “But it means a lot. It just means all my hard work coming to culmination. I’m really happy, really proud.”
Hall said she was happy to be part of the stage party and see some of the special moments shared between students and their professors and deans as they crossed the stage.
“You can see the relationships, and that’s really probably what made me happy and made me very grateful to be on stage and see it from that point of view,” she said, noting she also had a “mini fashion show” seeing everyone’s shoes.
Bridget Moore called Texas A&M a special school. She graduated Thursday with a bachelor’s degree in animal science, calling it the first of two graduations as she continues on to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“Getting from undergraduate to vet school is something she has been talking about doing since she was probably ,” Moore’s older sister Rachel Best said. “… We’re incredibly proud of her.”
Eddie Pina continued a tradition started by his sister by crossing the stage Thursday. He received a degree in bioenvironmental sciences, and said the day was full of excitement as he looks forward to the future.
“We are very proud and really happy and very honored,” his mom, Diana Cadieux, said. “This is a dream that I had for my kids to graduate from here. … It’s a lot of emotion and so much happiness. I’m so proud. I just want to tell everybody, ‘My son just graduated.’”