Meeting and Conquering Challenges: Penn Engineering Class of 2017

Karishma Tank

Karishma Tank was the student speaker at Penn Engineering’s 2017 Undergraduate Commencement ceremony.

Originally from New Hyde Park, New York, Karishma graduated from the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology at the University of Pennsylvania this spring. She majored in both Systems Engineering and Finance in Penn Engineering and the Wharton School, respectively.

While at Penn, Karishma was dedicated to improving the academic aspects of the engineering undergraduate experience through partnering with administrators and peers via her time on the Engineering Deans’ Advisory Board (EDAB). In addition to EDAB, Karishma served as the Chief Investment Officer of Penn’s Smart Woman Securities chapter, part of a national organization dedicated to educating undergraduate women on finance and investing.
 
Karishma will be joining Deutsche Bank as an analyst in New York. A transcript of her speech follows.


Welcome faculty and administration, family, friends, and, of course, the Penn Engineering Class of 2017.

I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say these past four years have gone by incredibly fast. I still remember my first day of classes as a freshman, feeling unsure of what I had signed up for. No matter how confident and excited we were to walk onto campus, we all truly had no idea what was to come. Fast-forward and here we are, at arguably the most exciting day of our lives thus far, sitting in cap and gown ready to graduate.

Our progress throughout the past four years has been demonstrated by our continuous dedication to improving both our engineering and design skills as well as who we are personally. Engineers, irrespective of field of study, will always keep tinkering. Our years here have taught us not only how to think more critically about the world around us but also to do, to build, to iterate, and to ultimately use our skills to act on the changes that we want to see in the world.

Here at Penn, we learned to meet and conquer challenges. Each one of us has had our own experience where we were tempted to just give up, whether it be the junior bioengineering labs, building operating systems in CIS 380, or “robockey” in mechatronics.

But we persevered and were stronger after these victories. After all, we’re engineers! Our coursework saw us relying on one another to finish problem sets, struggling through labs, waiting for hours to laser cut and 3D print, and studying for exam after exam. While we may have been frustrated, confused and stressed, these challenges have made us more equipped for our sure-to-be demanding lives after graduation.

We’ve also achieved so much in the process, whether it was something as simple as spending hours trying to debug CIS 120 code, only to find that we were missing a semicolon the whole time, or as complex as completing our senior design projects.

We’ve taken the most difficult, yet rewarding, classes this University has to offer, and we’ve found the most impressive ways to continue learning and challenging ourselves outside our formal instruction. We have dedicated our time toward building communities for groups historically underrepresented in engineering fields, competed in and won hackathons, given our time toward promoting STEM majors and careers to high school students in Philadelphia, and built and raced clean-energy vehicles.

Apart from engineering-focused activities, we’ve also performed in dance troupes, a cappella groups and other social, political, artistic, and multicultural activities across the University that showcase our diversity as a class.

However, the greatest achievement of all is the sense of empowerment that Penn Engineering has provided us. With it, we will pursue our biggest and wildest dreams. We’ll certainly encounter a daunting set of challenges and will undoubtedly look foolish at times and put ourselves at risk for embarrassing failures. But we know better than to be scared by the fear of failure. Don’t forget that by spending the past four years in engineering, we’ve already struggled against difficult odds and succeeded, and that we will do so time and time again.

Ben Franklin once said that, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning,” and I wholeheartedly agree. We shall go out into the world with the same eagerness and excitement that we arrived with at Penn and continue to be motivated by higher achievement, both in terms of the recognition that we may see from the rest of the world and the conviction that we see in ourselves.

After this week, many of us will leave Penn for good. We’ll begin the next chapter of our lives as twenty-somethings all over the world, and we’ll all have the privilege of bragging to our co-workers or future classmates that we are Penn Engineers. Wherever we go, we’ll be able to show the world that we are tough and resilient, and we know what it takes to be the best.

Finally, I simply couldn’t end without thanking the various people who have helped all of us get to where we are today. First, thank you to our professors and teachers. Thank you for believing in our abilities to learn, for pushing us to withstand the pressure of taking your classes, and for being patient and understanding when we came to ask for help. Thank you for providing us with the knowledge to enter the world as capable engineers. Thank you for becoming our friends and our biggest advocates within Penn Engineering.

To our friends and peers: Thank you for being constant support systems, for staying up with us late at night to commiserate about the pressure that comes from being an engineering student, and for reminding us that in our struggles, we are never alone. Thank you for becoming our family.

Most importantly, thank you to our families for calling to make sure we were doing okay, for the constant love and support, for believing in us even when we did not believe in ourselves, and, of course, for helping finance our educations. Thank you for being selfless and for working so hard to provide for us. Thank you for being our first teachers.

And finally, to the Penn Engineering Class of 2017: Thank you for being inspirational and unrelenting in your ambitions. I can’t wait to witness what we will dream, what we will create, and what we will become. Congratulations!