Student Speaker: Rachel Duke

Thank you Dr. Hohn. I would also like to thank Provost Osborne, Dean Sukumaran Clark Kelly, Dr. Kerr and so many others for helping me get here today. Hi everyone. When I was deciding what I wanted to talk about today, I knew that I didn’t want to just stand up here and talk about myself or act like I had some magical expertise that the rest of you somehow don’t. Even though we have all studied together for the last 4 years or so, we have all had vastly different experiences. So, I decided I would like to talk about a few of the most important things that myself and us as a class have learned during our time at Miami. And Spoiler alert: none of them have anything to do with mechanics or heat transfer.

Rachel Duke

First, think about where we were 4 years ago at this time. You know how we all thought we were going to go to college, and everything was going to be fun and so much better than high school? Although we might have been nervous, we wouldn’t have to listen to our parents, or have a curfew, and we could have the freedom to do what we really wanted? Yet somehow, everyday hasn’t been perfect. Some days have been really really difficult, and not every Friday night has been spent uptown.

The last 4 years have presented many challenges that nobody ever expected for us. Facing challenges- that’s a part of life. There is absolutely nothing we can do about the fact that hardships will always happen, so it is important to remember that we can get through it, and we have gotten through it before. We have all faced some things—and I am not talking about writing a 70-page unit ops lab report, although that might’ve felt like a hardship at the time. True adversity has happened in many of our lives, but we have gotten through it. For me, I went through cancer treatment and amputation when I was 7. I didn’t know that I would ever get to this point, but I thought if I did, everything would simply go smoothly for the rest of my life. Of course, I learned that will never be true. Life likes to test us when we least expect it. I mean, just think about some of the things that we thought we might not get over, but we did. Look at where we are now.

In the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute, we do an activity called the cycle of renewal, which some of you are familiar with. But for those who aren’t, to sum it up, it is basically the idea that we go through phases in our lives where we are really struggling. But that struggle, or what we call the ‘doldrums’, eventually leads to some exploration and personal improvement before getting back to a ‘fully aligned’ phase where we feel comfortable and confident. The most important thing we can take from this is that bad things are guaranteed to happen, and they are necessary for growth, but no matter how long we stay in the ‘doldrums’, we will always cycle back around.

Life will never be perfect, we’ll never have it all figured out, and that is okay. Another thing that I have learned is that nobody truly has it all together. Everyone struggles with uncertainty, and nobody knows everything. We will likely all suffer from imposter syndrome and feeling unworthy at some point in our lives.

Although we might not like to admit it in the College of Engineering and Computing, we all have emotions and self-doubt at times. We may never have it figured out, and we may not always feel like we live up to our accomplishments, but we have the strength and the skills to get through that. There is also absolutely no shame in asking for support or talking through your challenges, because having a shoulder to lean on when you need it can make all the difference in discovering ourselves. I am so thankful for my family and friends, and my fiancé, who have been an excellent part of my support system throughout the last 4 years. Their support has helped me to really find myself, which has been so incredibly important to my future.

To find ourselves, and to find our passions, is so important. Some of us don’t struggle at all with finding our passion, but at least for me it has been a major challenge. I think that once you do find what you are meant to do and who you are meant to be, it is important that we never give up on it.

We all have a reason to be here, and we all have fulfilling, purposeful lives ahead of us. Whether we are leaving here today and continuing in a graduate program, starting our own business, or working in an office, we all have some passion we are trying to fulfill beyond just getting a paycheck. It’s important to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones to find what will be best for us.

As Dr. Hohn mentioned, I personally accepted a job in Madison, Wisconsin which was a huge risk for me and way out of my comfort zone, but I am so excited about the opportunity to work at Epic where I hope to join the oncology team and have an impact in that medical community that means so much to me. I never would have realized that If I hadn’t pushed myself out of my comfort zone.
There’s a quote that has helped me to challenge my fears and do things I wouldn’t normally do, including speaking here today. For context, My 7th grade social studies teacher was having a conversation with my class about taking risks and living life to the fullest. His words are very simple and somewhat silly, but they have stuck with me. So, I hope they will stick with many of you as well.

His words were ‘if it isn’t illegal and nobody is getting hurt, do it’. So, from there, as the class of 2022, let’s go out there and begin the rest of our lives. Let’s take risks and make the most of our time. Congratulations to all of my classmates, and now fellow alumni, let’s get out there and let’s do it!