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Intellect

Student Commencement Speaker Finds Tenacity Key to Success

It takes many engineering students five years to finish their course work and graduate. But Ryan Barrett managed to complete his mechanical engineering degree, the honors program, a Spanish Language certificate and a business minor in less than four years.

He makes it looks so effortless.

"I don't consider myself the smartest person in the world, but I do have the tenacity to keep pushing and keep going, even if it's hard," Barrett said. "I actually like doing hard things."

Tenacity to succeed

Certainly Barrett's tenacity comes from within, but he also drew a particular inspiration and motivation from last November's devotional address given by Elder David F. Evans on tenacity.

Evans defines tenacity as sticking to a task even when it gets too hard. And for Barrett, that is exactly what propelled him to find success in his academic and professional careers.

Trial-and-error in Barrett's undergraduate thesis research on multi-model feedback pushed him to find answers, even when short on time and energy from a heavy class load. Even then he added more to his heavy schedule by starting work on his graduate thesis on wind turbine optimization.

Barrett is always striving to be better and work harder.

His determination eventually helped him gain acceptance to BYU's MS/MBA graduate program beginning immediately after graduation, a feat that takes most students years of work experience outside of the university to do.

A Commencement speech 100 years in the making

There's one more hard thing Barrett has to face before getting his diploma. Barrett, a 23-year-old soon-to-be BYU grad from Salt Lake City, has the unique opportunity to speak to his fellow graduates, their family and friends and the rest of the campus community at the BYU Commencement Ceremony on Thursday, April 23. 

No pressure.

As for his speech, Barrett says he was inspired by a speech given by a previous graduation student speaker more than 100 years ago.

In 1913, Alfred Kelly was assigned to be the graduation speaker at BYU's commencement ceremony. At the time, BYU was facing a great financial crisis and it seemed that the only way to survive would be to sell much of the land the university owned on Temple Hill.

As he contemplated his assignment, in the context of this unstable time for the future of BYU, Kelly had a vision. He saw thousands of future BYU students carrying books to hundreds of "temples of learning," with countenance bearing smiles of hope and faith.

Barrett says Kelly's glimpse of the future of BYU should resonate with us today because the class of 2015 is the vision Kelly saw 102 years ago. They are the future of BYU, and they should not only live up to Kelly's vision, but also create even greater visions for themselves.

Just like anybody else

Barrett sees himself as a normal BYU student just trying to get through classes.

"I'm just a normal guy who was somehow given this really cool responsibility to speak at graduation," Barrett said. "That's basically just me."

Barrett is a little nostalgic as he thinks about his BYU experience, and how fast these last four years have gone. And as a soon-to-be alumni, he's just glad he came to BYU where some incredible opportunities were available to him. 

"Don't get too caught up in the grades because there is an end to school," he said. "So have fun while you're here, think of the future, and take advantage of all the unique things BYU has to offer."

Writer: Jenna Randle

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