22:46 PM

Commencement speaker: 'At UHCL, I learned about myself and how to be a leader'


Joining the Hawk Leadership Institute was one of the best things Marian Lai did when she enrolled after transferring to University of Houston-Clear Lake with her associate degree from Robert Turner College and Career High School in Pearland. The skills she learned in HLI improved her confidence and taught her to embrace her abilities. She’s keeping those in mind as she moves forward with her final assignment as a student at UH-Clear Lake--delivering the commencement speech to the spring Class of 2023.

“When I was told I would be the speaker for commencement, I felt really proud,” Lai said. “Knowing my GPA wasn’t as high as I wanted it to be, I’m glad the search committee took my overall essay into consideration. It was such a full-circle moment for me, as my best friend and I spoke at our high school graduation, and now we will both be speaking at our college graduation.”

Even though the moment would be nerve-racking, Lai said she was grateful. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment and I’m honored to be able to speak in front of my class,” she said.

Lai said she wasn’t the most self-confident person in high school, and the COVID lockdown was extremely difficult. “I definitely have an artistic side, so I started a cookie business,” she said. “I was just bored and stumbled on the idea to make cookies. I started an Instagram page called Iced by Marian and I got a following. I made over $35,000 from baking and decorating cookies and it helped fund my college tuition.”

When she got to UHCL, her participation in the HLI helped her continue her momentum of building her confidence and developing her leadership skills. “I became a student employee in the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership and a peer mentor in HLI,” she said. “That’s where I learned a lot more about myself, how to be a leader, how to benefit from others, and allow them to learn from me as well. There were also a lot of community service opportunities that were helpful.”

Lai’s next step after graduating with her Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences is to begin a nursing program at Chamberlain University. “Throughout high school, I knew I wanted to work in health care, and I became a registered dental assistant, but it wasn’t for me,” she said. “I found nursing and someday, I’d like to work in a neo-natal intensive care unit as a pediatric nurse.”

Along with her new diploma, Lai says she is taking plenty of confidence with her to her next university. “I came to UHCL to get an education and to build connections, and that’s what I did,” she said. “It was a very good decision to come here. If I had to decide again, I’d do the same.”

UHCL’s spring commencement will be held Saturday, May 13 at NRG Arena, 1 NRG Parkway, Houston. There will be two sessions: the first, for the Colleges of Business and Education, will be at 10 a.m. The second, for the Colleges of Human Sciences and Humanities and Science and Engineering, will be at 2 p.m. For more information, go online.