Graduation letters: Simon Garrett


Illustration by Brandon Sarmiento.

Simon Garrett

Simon Garrett, Ph.D., is the chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department at the college of science and math. You can learn more about him here.

You probably don’t believe me, but the conclusion of an academic year is an exciting time for faculty as well as for students. Yet, probably not in the way you think we’re excited – Summer vacation here we come! In fact, the faculty and staff have invested significant parts of themselves supporting and cheering you, learning about your dreams and sacrifices, your ups and downs, and we hope to bring out the best in you. We mean that. Even if that C in organic chemistry seemed soul-crushing at the time.

Advice? Don’t stress too much about what comes next. When I say that it’s okay not to have everything figured out, what I mean is that it’s natural to feel uncertain about your future after graduation. You may not know exactly what career path you want to pursue, or where you want to live, or how to make that first million, or whether you should get a dog or a cat. That’s all perfectly normal.

The truth is, very few of us have everything completely mapped out after graduation. I didn’t; I spent a year working awful jobs trying to decide, “What comes next?” Even those who seem to have it all together have likely experienced their share of uncertainty, self-doubt, bad decisions and unhappiness.

So don’t put too much pressure on yourself right away. Instead, focus on exploring your interests and trying new things. Be brave. Be confident. Take internships or part-time jobs in fields that interest you, volunteer for causes that you care about, and attend networking events to meet people in different careers.

Over time, you’ll gain more clarity about what you really want to do and where you want to go. And even if you don’t have a clear roadmap for your future, that’s okay too. Life is full of surprises, and sometimes the best opportunities come when you least expect them. When I graduated – many millennia ago – I never imagined I’d be a Professor at a university, and as an immigrant to the U.S. too! Just keep an open mind, stay curious and you’ll find your way. One more thing: Please don’t forget to come back to us to brag about your journey.

Congratulations Matadors! Go change the world.