The top educator in Texas and a top executive at IBM Corp. offered advice on achieving success to the 2002 class of The University of Texas-Pan American during commencement exercises Saturday, May 11 at the Fieldhouse.
"I think the most 'knowable' thing about the future is that it will be marked by a constantly increasing pace of change," said Nicholas Donofrio, senior vice president of Technology and Manufacturing for IBM Corp. "I know because in no area does the world change faster than in my own field of information technology."
Donofrio spoke to graduates of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, College of Business Administration, and College of Science and Engineering during the 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. commencements.
Texas Education Commissioner Felipe Alanis, a UTPA alumnus, told graduates to always remember where they came from, never be afraid of speaking their minds and encourage children to reach for their dreams.
"Where are the heroes of today?" Alanis asked. "They are right here, right now ready to take on the challenge of the next generation."
Alanis - who spoke to graduates of the College of Arts and Humanities, College of Health Sciences and Human Services, and College of Education during the 9 a.m. and noon commencement ceremonies - acknowledged parents in the audience for encouraging their children's education goals.
"Our parents worked like heck and prayed for health and then worked some more to give their children what they never had," he said.
The state's first Hispanic education commissioner said success has little to do with a person's economic background. Rather, someone has taken great interest in that person and made that individual feel special.
Alanis - a former teacher, principal, administrator, superintendent, deputy education commissioner and most recently, assistant vice chancellor for Academic Affairs in The University of Texas System - also told graduates to give back.
"When you go out and work with the people in your community, talk to them, heal them, serve them with compassion," said Alanis, a Pharr-San Juan-Alamo graduate and grandson of South Texas migrant farm workers. "You have an obligation to work to improve this society."
The morning ceremony featured what is believed to be the University's youngest graduate ever - Norma Ester Borrego.
The 18-year-old, who received her degree in English with a biology minor, credited UTPA's concurrent education offerings with helping to accelerate her academic career.
"The opportunity was there, and I grabbed it," said Borrego, who plans to attend law school in the fall. "A lot of people told me I should go out and have a lot more fun in high school, but I don't feel like I've missed out on anything."
Meanwhile, Donofrio leads the strategy for developing and commercializing advanced technology across the company's global operations by overseeing IBM Research, the Personal and Printing Systems Group, the Integrated Supply Chain and Integrated Product Development teams, and the Import Compliance Office.
Holding seven technology patents, Donofrio told graduates that the only certainty about the future is a "constantly increasing pace of change." Entire career fields will be completely redefined and new ones created.
As such, he advised the new graduates to always keep an open mind, expand their horizons, embrace change, and be flexible by leading or following. They also must keep their "senses" - sense of history, sense of balance and sense of humor.
"Talent, by itself, is not enough for true success or personal fulfillment," he said. "If you find anything about yourself that's ordinary, find a way to make it extraordinary. A great way to do that is to give back to your community."
Donofrio also presented the opportunity for graduates to reverse the "digital divide" affecting Hispanics. While the Hispanic population in the United States has more than doubled during the past decade and become the largest ethnic minority, it is well behind in harnessing the power of technology.
During the commencement, UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez paid tribute to all the mothers in the crowd by having the UTPA Mariachis play Las Mañanitas, a traditional Mexican ballad, for Mother's Day.
Spring's commencement exercises were spread over two days for the first time in the University's history. Master's and doctoral degree recipients marched Friday night in a separate ceremony, with Dr. Salma I. Ghanem, Department of Communication chair and associate professor, serving as speaker.