2006 New Student Convocation
Aug. 31, 2006
Welcome to the Class of 2010! It’s wonderful to see so many of you here this evening.
A few months ago—about the time you were graduating from high school—the leading business journals from around the country conducted a poll to determine which American cities have the most brainpower. From Boston to San Francisco, they searched for the centers of intellect.
The editors determined that when it comes to small cities, the community of Ann Arbor is the brainiest in America.
When I look around this arena at all of our new students, I believe we just got a lot smarter.
As we all know, and as Provost Sullivan detailed for us, you are here because you are motivated, creative, and bright. You are also loved and supported by your parents and siblings, and I’d like all of us to recognize and thank the families who are with us this evening.
Let’s return for a minute to the fact that you are motivated, creative, and bright. Each and every one of our new students brings tremendous credentials to Michigan—it’s why we selected you for this class.
Now it’s time for you to build upon those achievements at Michigan. And you have many, many choices for making that happen. So many choices, in fact, that the University can seem a bit overwhelming.
So I have an insider’s suggestion for how best to approach the University of Michigan and make it fit you:
Think of the university as your intellectual iPod.
As students at a great research university, you have thousands upon thousands of opportunities to download and customize to meet your interests, your moods, and your style.
The iPod is a cultural phenomenon—like the University. It encourages creativity and individuality—like the University. And, really, once you get the hang of it, you just can’t do without it—just like the University.
So, let’s do a little sampling of what you can load up on:
Consider our First-Year Seminars, designed specifically for freshmen to engage with faculty and develop the critical thinking skills that are such an integral part of your Michigan education. You can learn about Malcolm X, the American immigrant experience, the evolution of the Earth, or the physiology of flavors. There’s even a seminar that looks at “Grey’s Anatomy” and other ways TV and media portray medicine.
Throw yourself into research and work alongside our finest professors in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. Look into the new bachelor’s degree program at the Ford School of Public Policy. Take advantage of the classes and programs that are part of LS&A’s theme year on citizenship. Participate in a forum about ethics in public life. Make plans for a year of study in a different country.
Most importantly, seek out your professors. The knowledge they share with you will be the most tremendous download you have known. Listen to them over and over again, for their insights and expertise will open new worlds to you. Appreciate their clarity, because you will hear concepts and theories that are fresh, and different, and radical in the best sense of the word.
Don’t forget to shuffle your choices at this intellectual iPod we call Michigan. Mix it up. You will hear a lot about diversity at Michigan, and that means a million things.
It is the range of people you will encounter in your classes and labs, in the residence halls and libraries. You will meet students like Ben Luster, an Engineering sophomore who spent this past summer bicycling some 4,000 miles across the country to raise money for charity, or Priyanka Pathak, an LSA senior committed to social justice through hands-on service. She has worked with Habitat for Humanity in Hawaii, delivered meals to AIDS patients in New York, and led the North American Summer Service Team here on campus.
You will learn that your professors excel in a diversity of disciplines—faculty like geologist Samuel Mukasa, who travels to the North and South Poles to study rocks and what they say about the Earth’s movement; or English Professor Alisse Portnoy, who explores rhetoric and its role in social movements; or Piano Professor Louis Nagel, who performs as he lectures about how our lives are shaped by the movements of Bach and Beethoven.
So many places await you—from the Big House to Blimpy Burgers, to the Diag and Dominick’s. There is the solitude of the Law Quad and the energy of the Fishbowl. The different places of Michigan provide amazing perspectives for thinking and reflecting. You’ll discover these places as you head out on Provost Sullivan’s scavenger hunt and crisscross the Central and North campuses.
One of those places is the President’s House, where I am having a student open house on the afternoon of Sept. 13. Please come by, because I would love to meet you and hear about your different interests.
Diversity means the different politics, religions, identities, and cultures. It means listening to others, offering your views, giving respect and expecting it in return. It’s how we’re wired here at Michigan, and I know you will add to the electricity of our community.
As you know with your iPod, accessories are essential, and that’s never more important than with your time at Michigan. Your extracurricular activities, the new friends you make, and the different organizations you join will deepen your education in ways you cannot yet imagine.
There is truly something for everyone at Michigan, so take time to customize your experience.
There is the mock trial team, the human-powered submarine team, and a bridge club that just won the national collegiate championship.
You can build a theatre set with the Basement Arts troupe. Or mentor a second-grader through K-grams. We have the Maize Rage, the Michigan Barbeque Club, the Poetry Slam, and the Squirrel Club. We have organizations for figure skaters, boxers, medieval dancers, sky divers and snowboarders.
If none of our one thousand-plus student groups suits you—start your own. Initiative is an essential part of the Michigan experience. We love students with a passion for originality and creativity. In fact, we expect you to upload and share your ideas, your views, and your energy.
One place to start might be a new competition we are launching for students who compose, perform and record their own music. We’re calling it New Music on the Block, and it is for any student who creates music of any genre. If your music is selected by a panel of judges, you will be offered a recording contract with Block M Records.
Once your work is recorded, it will be available for distribution on iTunes and downloading to iPods everywhere. The creativity you showcase in Ann Arbor will have the potential to reach people around the world.
It’s happened before. I want to play back the words of a young man who was filled with curiosity when he attended the University a few years ago. “I had the opportunity,” he said, “to take a lot of project-based classes and work on University projects outside of classes, and that learning allowed me to explore what I wanted to explore.”
That is Tony Fadell, a graduate of Michigan and the co-creator of the iPod. He has changed our world with his work. That’s the Michigan Difference. I know I join our faculty and deans when I say we all expect the same of you—and more.
It all begins here, at Michigan. Like the iPod, the University of Michigan will transform the way you see and hear what the world has to offer. We will make you want to jump, shout, grab the person next to you, and say, “Check this out.”
So plug in to Michigan! Turn it up! And always, Go Blue!