QUEST Takes Over Graduation: Commencement Speaker Spotlight

As the end of the semester approaches, we must sadly say goodbye to our beloved Q21 and Q22 seniors. These seniors were the first generation of the two-cohort “baby boom” of QUEST, and their presence will deeply be missed after their graduation.

Q21 and Q22 were truly a remarkable class of driven, innovative students, and their achievements and talents were recognized beyond the QUEST Program. These students completed groundbreaking research, secured impressive internships and full-time jobs, and were leaders in the campus community. To say that Q21 and Q22 were overachievers would be an understatement.

This month, we interviewed QUEST seniors Rachel George, Ben Hsieh, Yash Mehta, and Tony Trinh, all who have shown incredible dedication and involvement both within and outside the program. These four seniors were chosen as commencement speakers at four separate commencements – which only further shows the impact our students have made on their communities. QUESTPress interviewed these outstanding seniors to gain their words of wisdom and experiences before they transition into proud QUEST alumni.

Rachel George

Rachel George (Q21), Commencement Speaker for the University of Maryland

Rachel George will be graduating with a dual degree in Marketing and English. She is passionate about entrepreneurship and served in the Social Entrepreneur Corps in Ecuador. Her creative talents have been utilized in QUEST Marketing, the Diamondback, and at Meta Cartel, a streetwear and art startup where she served as the Creative Director. She is also part of Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Beta Kappa. Some of her other interests include videography, photography, graphic design, and guitar. Post-graduation, Rachel may be traveling to Latin America through the Study Abroad Office to make video documentaries on the continent’s summer disability programs. After her return, her ultimate goal is to start working at a video/multimedia agency to develop skills to apply visual narratives to social justice.

Ben Hsieh (Q22), Commencement Speaker for the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Ben Hsieh is an Operations Management and Spanish double-major. In addition to earning the Outstanding Capstone Project award in Fall 2015, Ben has several notable achievements, such as winning first place at Maryland’s 2013 & 2014 Deloitte Case Competition. Within the QUEST program, Ben is currently Q26’s 190H TA and an Innovo Scholar. He also may be holding the record for second most hours logged in the QUEST Lab next to Alex Wilson. Some of his hobbies include playing golf, giving amazing pep talks, and making killer guacamole. He will be working at Bain & Company post-graduation as a consultant.

Yash Mehta

Yash Mehta (Q22), Commencement Speaker for the Robert H. Smith School of Business

Yash Mehta is a Marketing & Supply Chain Management double-major with a minor in Technology Entrepreneurship. He is one of the founders of the QUEST Development Series (QDeS), a brainchild of the BMGT397 mentors class. He was recently selected as Smith’s Outstanding Senior in Marketing. During his time at Maryland, Yash was a part of the Smith’s Dean’s Student Advisory Council, President of Consult-Your-Community, and a member of Omicron Delta Kappa. Some of his interests include graphic design, social entrepreneurship, traveling, and stand-up comedy. He will be working full-time at Deloitte Consulting as a Business Analyst in their Commercial Strategy and Operations practice.

Tony Trinh

Tony Trinh (Q21), Commencement Speaker for the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

Tony Trinh is majoring in Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Nanoscale Science and Technology. Outside of QUEST, Tony is part of Omicron Delta Kappa and serves as both a Resident Assistant and Teaching Assistant. Tony was behind-the-scenes for many QUEST community events as part of QSO. Outside of academics, Tony enjoys swimming, sailing, fine cheeses, Wes Anderson movies, and The Beach Boys. He will be attending the Maryland School of Medicine in the fall as part of the Air Force Health professions Scholarship Program and will enter the Air Force as an enlisted General Medical Officer following graduation.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment of your college career?

Rachel: Choosing to work with a nonprofit in Ecuador last summer instead of pursuing a standard business internship. Up until that point, I’d put a lot of pressure on myself to model my school and career decisions based off of the people around me in the business school, while at heart I knew I wanted to do work that diverges from what people typically do with marketing and business. Choosing to give up a design internship to go work with small businesses and run eye exams in Ecuador was my first big step in following what I want for myself, even though it was a little riskier. Now I’m finding that it’s easier to continue to break the mold when I have to decide between what everyone else is doing and what I am passionate about.

Ben: I think I’ve always been good about being optimistic and cheering people up; while some of my peers might point to creating their own club or leading an organization to some award, I think my biggest accomplishment was helping people find their strengths and encouraging those around me to be the best they can be.

Yash: This is a really tough question because I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of some amazing organizations and work with people who have enabled me to excel. I’d have to say some of the recognition I’ve received as a senior (Phillip Merrill Scholar, Outstanding Senior in Marketing, Commencement Speaker) has been fulfilling because it is the culmination of three years of hard work.

Tony: Tough question. I’d have to say my proudest accomplishment has nothing to do with anything academic. My first year as a Resident Assistant in Hagerstown Hall I had a resident that was going through some heavy stuff. Helping her through it all was something I’d been trained to do but there’s a big difference between reading a training manual and actually dealing with a situation. Just being there for her when she needed me and being a pillar of support in her time of need is something I’d say I’m pretty proud of.

Q: What words of advice do you have for current and future QUEST students?

Rachel: Similar to what I said in your previous question: don’t be afraid to break the mold for your passions. I think it’s safe to say that QUEST students are all very ambitious people who want to be successful, and it’s easy to define “successful” by what other people tell you it means. The standard definition doesn’t matter when it comes what you are passionate about and want to pursue. Graduating without a job isn’t a failure if your other choice was taking a job you knew would make you unhappy. Focus on what issues drive you, and don’t be afraid when those issues mean you make a riskier or unusual career choice, personal choice, or life choice.

Ben: Study what you’re interested in. I think a lot of good students get boxed into “doing what is right.” Especially in the business school, a lot of students double major simply because everyone else is doing it; I was planning on doing the same but decided one day that I would be upset if I were to not continue taking Spanish classes, so I decided to double major. This “mantra” of mine is especially for true for QUEST students because they will be super employable with just one major and QUEST, which leaves them free to explore fun and interesting minors and electives.

Yash: My advice to QUEST students is very simple: find great friends and reflect often. QUEST surrounds you with some of the brightest people who often make amazing friends. Find friends that you can grow with and ones that will help build you into the best version of you. And remember, as is with most things, the quality of your friends is far more important than the quantity of your friends. The second piece of advice is to reflect often. QUEST students are all stars and it’s easy to get caught up in “stuff” but find time to regularly reflect on your life. It allows you to be more grateful and to keep perspective about what is most important to you.

Tony: Don’t be afraid to do things that are outside of the ordinary. As a pre-med freshman, I pretty much had applied for QUEST on a whim, but it interested me and even though it was way off the path for the traditional pre-med student I ended up making it one of my central activities in college. Way too often, we rely on things that are easy or that are normal but normal isn’t fun, weird is fun. For future QUEST students, if a project interests you but you have no clue what you might be able to offer to the team, who cares, sign up for it and make the project yours. Even if you don’t have a lot of experience, it doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer.

Q: What is your favorite QUEST class/elective? 

Rachel: QUEST2Asia (which was QUEST2China when I went) was pretty amazing. It was my first time in Asia and my first time traveling alone, and I loved it. Definitely a growing experience. The course project was a fun sprint project, and we had lots of time to go out and explore the cities around us.

Ben: I thoroughly enjoyed traveling to Hong Kong, Macau, and south China with QUEST but I think it would be sacrilegious to say anything but 190H. I loved going through the course as a student and reliving it as both a mentor and TA, it truly is a testament to how innovative and advanced QUEST is in terms of the educational experience.

Yash: Without a doubt it has to be the QUEST Mentor’s Class. Ever since my 190H experience, I knew I wanted to try and be a mentor and it turned out to be everything I was expecting and more! Team “Straight Outta QUEST” was phenomenal and together we learned from each other. It really teaches you a lot about team dynamics, conflict management, and what it takes to be a good mentor/mentee.

Tony: QUEST2China!

Q: What is your favorite QUEST memory?

Rachel: Probably our 490H QUEST conference (either that or QUEST camp). The overall energy of the conference was great, and my team got to open the conference to a packed room, including President Loh. The presentations all went so well and you could tell everyone was really proud of their work (despite being super nervous before presentations started), so it was a great way to conclude our QUEST journey.

Ben: While it’s hard to pick just one, I’m especially fond of QUEST camp — Alex Wilson and I were having a competition to see who could remember everyone in our cohort’s name first… I’m not sure who won that one but we both came out as winners for having been a part of Q22.

Yash:  My favorite QUEST memory has to be my cohort’s 490H Conference. It was a wonderful experience that I got to share with my cohort and my family. In many ways it was the “finishing touch” on not only 490H but my entire QUEST experience. I was also fortunate enough to have an amazing 490H team/project so we were proud to show what we were able to accomplish together.

Tony: QUEST2China. I never thought I’d study abroad but somehow found myself in Hong Kong with some people I had only met one semester prior. From the experience I really started to love the program. It catalyzed my future involvement with student leadership and helped me make some of my closest friends in the program.

Q: What is the single most invaluable thing you have gained from QUEST?

Rachel: The mindset. QUEST, more than any other program, has taught me to be one of the people pushing boundaries, rather than someone who just watches the people pushing the boundaries and wishes she could be like them. It’s a wake-up call to be in an environment that attracts people who think so innovatively and actually execute on their ideas; it makes you realize that, while creating something successful from scratch is very tough, it is also very possible. A QUEST student created the Startup Shell, the largest student-run startup incubator of its kind, and Bitcamp, one of the first hugely successful national university hackathons. QUEST students are securing patents, building businesses, and speaking at large conferences. It’s a community that’s both grounding and motivating.

Ben: I’m a nerd, but my best friends are all from QUEST. Some of them I probably would not know if not for QUEST, but all of them have been an invaluable resource to me throughout my college career and will probably be in my wedding party.

Yash: This answer will be a bit cliche but it has to be the friends I’ve made. The closest friends I have are from QUEST and being in the program together has just given us one more reason to bond. Our cohort is also close and we’ve shared some really funny and memorable times together. The lessons, memories, jokes, and support these friends have given me are truly invaluable.

Tony: I’ve gained so many things from QUEST I think it’s unfair to just pick one so I’ll cheat and pick two. On a personal level, the most invaluable thing I’ve gained is the network of students, staff and corporate clients who have really pretty much shaped my college experience and on a professional level, it was an ability to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds for a common goal. As a physician in the future, I will have to do this very often and learning how to butt heads with others while still producing solid work is something that I definitely fine-tuned during my time in QUEST.

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