PhD Commencement Speaker: Yaminette Diaz-Linhart, PhD’23

May 21, 2023

Yaminette Diaz-Linhart wearing a cap and gownTake a minute to appreciate this moment. We made it! ¡Felicidades!

I am incredibly grateful to speak on behalf of the graduating Heller PhD students today. I’m reminded of this brilliant meme I came across during my time as a PhD student — let me explain it.

Picture a rollercoaster where riders at the start cross paths with other riders finishing their ride. The starters (all of us on day one of our PhD programs) are fresh, energized, and ready to take on this ride. Riders coming back, well, let’s just say they don’t look as fresh as they once did, but they did complete their ride and they’re excited to disembark. Here we are, we did it!

I couldn’t have imagined then when I got on that PhD ride that there would be several, shall we call them loops? You know those rollercoasters where you are suspended upside down and you think: “This is it; I might not make it”?

I can’t even name all the unexpected challenges we faced. Yes, we had some loops, some twists and turns, some drops that came out of nowhere.

Not only did we finish the ride, these twists and turns challenged us to further develop our work. This is what makes this day so special — we finished this PhD despite the unexpected challenges we faced.

We wouldn’t have made it on or off this PhD ride without our close family, friends, and student colleagues. Thank you for all the big and small ways you supported us.

I especially want to thank my spouse and two kids who were a big part of my personal motivation to stay on this rollercoaster. My husband likes to joke that my PhD was one of the hardest things he’s ever done, so if you see him, I will spare you from his joke ahead of time!

We also wouldn’t have completed this ride if it weren’t for the Heller faculty. Thank you for advising us along the way, challenging us, and helping us to see our research in new ways.

A very special thank you to the Heller staff — everything from logistics around books, research grants, getting into our offices after locking ourselves out! Thank you for helping us with the little things.

Thank you also to the master’s students. I loved learning alongside you as a teaching assistant — you are truly inspirational!

Our determination to make the world a more equitable place, to ask difficult questions and challenge conventional ways of doing research — this is what drove us to complete this doctoral degree. Graduate school transformed us and how we see the world.

Here we are, disembarking from this PhD ride. What a journey this has been! To my fellow graduating Heller PhD classmates, whatever you do next, whether another thrill ride, a merry-go-round, or perhaps you decide to leave the amusement park altogether — congratulations! 

Remember all the ways you’ve grown throughout this process, remember your grit and determination, remember your community, remember who you are. Thank you again. Pa’lante, siempre pa’lante.