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UT Arlington Fall 2015 MavsMeet Convocation

August 26, 2015


In 1988 Richard Bach wrote, “Of course there’s destiny, but destiny doesn’t push you where you don’t want to go. You’re the ones who choose. Destiny is up to you.”

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Maverick Country. Welcome to your home. Welcome to a wonderful future.

It is an honor and a pleasure to greet you today as you take steps toward that destiny. A destiny that you initiated years ago and you now continue to sculpt—toward being a Nobel, Fields or Pulitzer prize winner, CEO or CFO of a major corporation, the next Florence Nightingale, the architect of the next generation social network, or perhaps—the next Mark Cuban, Jerry Jones, or even president of UTA.

MavsMeet Convocation is a special occasion because it marks a beginning—a time of promise, and the transition from dreams to reality. What you do in the next few years will set the stage for your lives, making those cherished dreams come true through the power of your intellect, determination, and hard work—and through the dedication of the wonderful people helping you along your journey, your families, your friends, and our wonderful faculty and staff.

Let me at the outset recognize some special people who have helped to bring you here and will continue guiding you on your way through graduation. As I call out your groups, could you please stand and remain standing so that we may recognize you.

  • The MavElite—they took you on your first campus tour and introduced you to UTA;
  • The Maverick Orientation Leaders—who helped set the stage for beginning your stay here with confidence;
  • Peer Academic Leaders, peer instructors and Freshmen Year Experience instructors—who will serve as guides, friends and philosophers as you transition into being college students;
  • Members of the Apartment and Residence Life team—who serve as your own UTA GPS – providing you with direction, knowledge and insight; and
  • The Student Affairs team led by Tim Quinnan—who are there to assist, guide, and help you, cheer you on when things are going well and support you when you need a shoulder

Could you please join me in a round of applause for these dedicated campus leaders?

MavsMeet is not just a time of welcome—it’s a time of connecting and re-connecting with your Maverick family. You are musicians and athletes, physicists and nurses, engineers and philosophers. You come from Arlington, Fort Worth and Dallas, San Diego and New Orleans, Florida and Minnesota, China, India and Great Britain, from cities, ranches and small towns. You bring the world to UTA—and you represent the promise of the future—the promise of achievements and success, the promise to dream lofty dreams and to achieve goals others may have considered to be impossible.

While each of you has a specific goal in mind—beginning with an undergraduate degree—remember that there is more to it than just the goal. The journey toward that goal—how you shape it and how you experience it—will define the quality of your personal development and the footprint that you leave on the sands of time. While you come here with great expectations, remember that you are not alone. We are privileged to have accomplished scholars on our faculty, and dedicated staff who care deeply for you. Use them as a resource both in and outside class. Get to know them and join with them on a journey of discovery and inquiry that spans far more than formal class work.

And while you are here, strive for what others may consider impossible. Spread your wings and reach for the stars. Never be scared of stretching beyond your bounds, for your abilities are limited only by what you believe are constraints.

I wish you well as you begin your journey in higher education and look forward to the time, a few years hence, when we will have the honor of congratulating each of you on receiving a degree from this University and joining the ranks of our distinguished alumni—astronauts, scientists, teachers, health care providers, leaders of industry, artists, and innovators.

It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce to you our keynote speaker. Shayla Rivera is a former aerospace engineer with NASA turned keynote speaker, TV host, emcee/host, humorist, comedian, actor, writer, producer, seminar facilitator, panel moderator, and awareness expert.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Shayla grew up with an avid interest in science, machinery and fixing things. After earning a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering with a minor in psychology, she joined McDonnell Douglas Space Systems at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and worked on NASA’s Shuttle and Space Station programs for eight years. After leaving NASA, she began facilitating life-changing seminars on stress management for executives at companies around the country and also discovered she had comedic skills.

She used her experiences to create the hit one-woman show, “Rocket Science and Salsa,” directed by Debbie Allen, for which Rivera earned a "Best Lead Actress" nomination by the NAACP Theater Awards. She has appeared on television in “Comics Unleashed,” "Extreme Fakeover," "National Lampoon’s Funny Money," “Funny Is Funny," and others. She was a guest on “The Dennis Miller Show,” “The Roseanne Show,” and “The Martin Short Show." She has also headlined on entertainment programs for Univision, Galavision and on “The Latino Comedy Jam” for Telemundo.

In 2007, Shayla received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the President’s Council on Service Participation. In 2010, she received the Award for Excellence in Public Speaking by the Latino Speakers Bureau and was named "Funniest Latina Comedian" by the organization Latin 2015.

Mavericks, please welcome, Shayla Rivera.