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Mabroor Wassey

Master of Business Administration and Master of Science, Supply Chain Management

Good morning, graduating Class of 2018. We are here! Today’s celebration is a culmination of many unique personal stories. I am sure we all have our own stories of getting here, navigating through the highs and lows of a high-powered graduate school program. I am privileged to share my story with all of you today, and I hope it brings out some of yours to the forefront.

On behalf of the graduating Class of 2018, I first want to take this opportunity to thank the administration, the honorable Dean Hasan Pirkul and Monica Powell, the senior associate dean of JSOM, for the guidance and support. I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the families and friends here with us, my aunts and uncles, my in-laws who travelled from Bangladesh to be with me here today — thank you for making this day all the more special with your graceful presence. I am most grateful to my wife, Nawra, for pushing me to apply for the MBA, do my GREs and even apply to become the commencement speaker. She had my back all this time.

After almost nine years of pursuing a professional career, two years of graduate school was my gift to myself, a “break” I thought I earned and deserved. All those books I had bought at duty-free stores when traveling for work, and only had read the first chapters of, I wanted to finish reading them while at school. "How hard can an MBA really be?" I told myself. Little did I know, I would go on to add an MS to the MBA, signing up for six to seven classes per semester. One of the books I fell in love with is Grit by Angela Duckworth. Professors Jeff Hicks, Charlie Hazard and Larry Redlinger deserve all the praise for introducing and decoding it for us.

Angela Duckworth left her consulting job at McKinsey and became a New York City public school teacher when she started pondering on what determines future success. How can we predict success? Is it talent? For that matter, what is success? Long story short, she’s now a University of Pennsylvania professor and she argues that it is grit, or the power of passion and perseverance, that makes someone successful. Not talent, not GMAT scores or high school GPAs, perhaps not how many courses you did in your MBA, but how you did them. Were you ready to put in that extra hour in researching through the rich UTD library database, or were you just Googling them? Were you involved actively at a student organization trying to network or were you just going home after classes? Well, at least that is how I internalized it.

Back in 1977, my father, an air force officer, was severely wounded in a military coup in Bangladesh. He was shot several times. This was before he met my mom. He used to be a swimmer and a basketball player before getting wounded. After he miraculously survived, he was offered the option of switching to the civil service because doctors did not think he would ever be fit enough to serve in the military again. Six months later, he was back in the air force with one of his legs slightly shorter than the other. He was so gritty and determined that he even went back to competitive swimming. My life experiences that eventually shaped who I am today, helped me relate to this book, Grit, at a very personal level.

It inspired in me the willpower to stick through situations. As a class, we have experienced peers embarking in crucial life events like parenthood, marriages and proposals; parents passing away; going through heartbreaks, divorces, and miscarriages. And yet we all persevered. We are here today. We were around each other, helping each other, giving and taking as Adam Grant puts it, but in the end, persevering with passion. 

As we embark on life after school, this will be my biggest takeaway from JSOM, and hopefully something we can demonstrate as graduates at work, be it in corporations, nonprofits, startups, or in PhD programs, to our families and to society at large.

In the student organization I was part of, the Graduate Business Society, I rediscovered my leadership skills. We had our lows reviving this dying student organization. Volunteering when you have huge class loads is easier said than done. The rallying reason, why every student organization still does it, is that it matters. It makes a difference in our students’ lives. It includes everyone. And to me, that is leadership. Being able to identify what can make a difference, pursuing that with grit and including everyone in the process.

“We are gritty in the face of external uncertainties, we stand up for what is right, and we do that all with a smile, with passion and warmth in our hearts.”

On this campus, it is us the students who breathe the life in to it. We organize the case competitions, we engage with industry and bring in senior managers, and we celebrate success and support the failures to recoup. We are gritty in the face of external uncertainties, we stand up for what is right, and we do that all with a smile, with passion and warmth in our hearts.

As we go out there and compete with graduates of all the top schools, we shall be humble, but we shall also be confident. Because we know we are a gritty bunch, we beat them in case competitions. And because we know we are a gritty bunch, we can beat them at work, too. We can beat them in publishing in the top 24 journals. And, most importantly, we can include them in showing friendship and warmth to others even in our toughest times.

With that, Comets, I wish us luck! Whoosh!

Mabroor Wassey graduated with an MBA and master’s in supply chain management. His immediate plan is to join his wife in New York.