2007 New Student Convocation
Aug. 30, 2007
It is a pleasure to look out and see the Class of 2011!
Can you believe you’re finally here? We have been looking forward to your arrival because of everything you bring to our community.
I want to thank your families for joining you this evening and making sure you get situated as you begin your college careers.
Now that you are at the finest public university in the country, it’s time for an assignment. There is no need to rush: I know you are still unpacking, still trying to remember your RA’s name, and still figuring out how to catch the shuttle for Meijer Madness tomorrow night.
But once all that is done, I want you to explore. In particular, explore five different places during your first year at Michigan—sites that will connect you with the richness of your university. These five spaces will provide you with a sense of what a Michigan education means.
Make your first stop the Graduate Library. It anchors the Diag, and its Reference Room is a wonderful refuge and a remarkable resource. Among the treasures you will discover here is a magnificent work of art known as the “Arts of Peace” mural.
Study this mural, and you will see that every figure in this painting—and there are several—every figure is worshipping at the shrine of knowledge.
Discovering and sharing knowledge is our mission. The academic enterprise at Michigan is challenging and exhilarating. You will have courses you love, and courses that test you. Your professors are anxious to share their expertise with you, and they are just as eager to hear your questions, your theories and your arguments. Do not be shy if you believe you have a great idea! We expect you to step forward and share your thoughts.
And we have so much to share with you. I hope you will take part in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, where you will conduct research alongside our most experienced faculty. Or sign up for a First-Year Seminar and learn about such topics as women writers and classical myth; economic relations between Canada and the U.S.; or the science of cryptology.
I really hope you participate in LSA’s academic theme year that explores contemporary China, because learning about our increasingly connected world is an essential feature of a Michigan education.
And never believe that your education is limited to the classroom or laboratory. You are going to learn as much from your classmates and roommates as you do from your professors.
Next, wind your way to the Planetarium at the Exhibit Museum of Natural History. Come November, the Planetarium will be fully digitized, and with its new technology, will allow you to “fly” through space and explore the universe as we know it. Whether you are interested in astronomy, underwater research or archaeology, the Planetarium can help explain our world.
Opening your eyes to new universes is an everyday occurrence at the University. You are going to encounter people of different cultures and heritages. As we just heard from our Admissions Director Ted Spencer, this incoming class alone represents every state and 53 different nations. You are going to be exposed to new religious faiths, diverse ethnic traditions, and international languages and foods.
This is a U-M education: limitless interaction with students of wide-ranging passions, different beliefs, conflicting politics, and infinite interests.
If you want a glimpse of these many, many interests, attend next Thursday’s Festifall on the Diag. You will find booth after booth of student organizations, everything from the Persian Students Association and the Pan-African Network to the Michigan Ice Carving Team and the U-M Sailing Club.
For your third, must-see spot on campus, make your way to North Campus and the Moore Building, home of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. Here you will find the remarkable Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments.
The Stearns Collection is unlike any other collection on this continent. Here you will find musical instruments from throughout the world and from throughout the centuries. You might come across sacred flutes from Papua New Guinea, a porcelain violin from Germany, the first Moog synthesizer, or a ritual Tibetan drum made from human skulls.
The Stearns Collection is eclectic, it is unique, and it is available to you as students.
This is how we approach arts and culture at Michigan. We have a lively performing arts calendar, countless visual exhibits, and more lectures than one person can take in. You can experience a performance by Yo-Yo Ma or the Symphony Band; explore a photo exhibit about Iran, or another about Jewish photographers and their cities; or attend a lecture by the executive director of Amnesty International.
It’s also worth mentioning to you—and your parents—that most of these opportunities are free, while the University Musical Society offers half-price tickets.
More importantly, the arts and cultural opportunities that await you add a significant, and engaging, dimension to your education.
During your time at Michigan, you will undoubtedly go to Michigan Stadium for a football game. It is an experience different from any other in college sports, and even if you aren’t a football fan, please attend a game for the sheer spectacle of it all.
But let me also suggest—for your fourth stop—that you visit the Stadium in a quieter moment, when it is empty and you can truly appreciate its vastness.
When you are sitting there alone, or perhaps with a friend, know that generations of Michigan students have come before you. Hundreds of thousands of young people have experienced what we call the Michigan Difference—that level of scholarship and spirit that sets us apart from other institutions.
As our newest students, you are now part of a worldwide family that represents the maize and blue of Michigan.
Lastly, for your fifth and final stop, I want you to visit my home, the historic President’s House at the heart of the campus.
The President’s House is the oldest building on campus, and dates to 1839 when it was built for a professor and when sheep grazed on what is now the Diag. I really do live there, along with my husband and our cats, and I would like nothing better than to have you come to an open house I am hosting next week.
Tuesday is the first day of classes, and I know you will be busy meeting your professors and buying books, but please come by between 3:30 and 5. I’m eager to meet you and hear about your plans at Michigan.
A few months ago, when you were leaving high school and making your plans for Ann Arbor, we held commencement at Michigan Stadium. Our senior speaker was Abdul El-Sayed, and he said something that foreshadows your experiences here.
“I love Michigan,” he told the crowd, “because the person who’s leaving here today is better than the one who came.”
He is right. As you discover the University of Michigan, you are going to grow, as a scholar and as a person. You are going to experience the joy of learning, the excitement of a vibrant campus, and the pride of being a Wolverine.
Your opportunities are endless, as is your potential. Welcome again, and Go Blue!