Remarks at New Student Convocation
September 3, 2009
I want to join in the warm welcomes for the Class of 2013!
Nearly 30,000 high school seniors from around the world hoped to attend the University of Michigan this fall, and we wanted you – the most accomplished among them. This is our night to celebrate you, our incoming class, and the talent, intellect and aspirations you bring to our university.
It is a pleasure to welcome you, and your families, to campus. You worked extremely hard to get here, and we’re excited you are now part of our academic community.
I know you are excited, too – about setting up your room, meeting new people in your hall, navigating the campus, and planning your schedule. And I know you may be anxious – anxious about your coursework, about being away from home, and about finding your place at Michigan.
All of these emotions are normal.
What is not typical is the experience that awaits you as a Michigan student. From the classrooms and laboratories, to the libraries, museums and Michigan Stadium, the University of Michigan will be unlike any environment you have known.
Your professors will be stimulating, challenging, and hard. Your classmates will partner with you, compete with you, and teach you as much as do your professors. Your courses will take you in intellectual directions you never imagined. The range of academic disciplines in our schools and colleges is exceptional, and the pathways they can lead to are infinite.
It is your job to make those connections.
Let me give you a simple but powerful example of where your Michigan education might take you.
A few months ago, several students launched an iPhone app they developed as part of an Engineering course. It’s a free app called DoGood, with a basic concept: Encourage people to do one nice act each day.
For example, one day you are told, “Leave a quarter inside a pay phone today.” Another day it’s “Organize a family dinner tonight.” Or “Beautify your world today.” The DoGood suggestion for today is “Hang a clothesline ... harness the natural power of wind and sun.”
These daily actions seem pretty effortless. But when you think about these individual acts of kindness amplified by thousands of people – and nearly 100,000 people have downloaded DoGood since June – the potential impact of DoGood is impressive.
What seems to strike most people about DoGood was summed up simply by one user who said: “Finally, an app that does some real good.”
The DoGood story is characteristic of what students experience at Michigan. A professor inspires them. Classmates collaborate with them. The potential of technology and innovation intrigues them. And it is the prospect of making a difference – making a difference in people’s lives – that genuinely drives them to succeed.
At U-M, we want you to be creative, and your professors will work with you to develop that potential. We value students who come to the classroom with initiative, innovation, and a dose of skepticism.
We expect you to work in teams, because that is the best way to find answers to the really complex problems of the day. We are constantly in pursuit of new knowledge here, and you are expected to contribute to that quest. One of the reasons you are part of this community is because of what you can offer your peers, and the diversity of cultures, beliefs and interests of our student body is limitless.
And we believe in service, in making the world a better place through our decisions and actions. This is, after all, the campus John F. Kennedy chose to announce his idea of the Peace Corps. Our faculty launched the first Earth Day. And more students from U-M sign up for Teach for America than at any other university.
We expect much of you, and you should have equally high expectations of us as your faculty, deans and administrators. I, for one, am eager to hear about your plans, and hope you will share them. I’m hosting an open house next Tuesday, on the first day of classes, from 3:30 to 5 in the afternoon, and encourage you to stop by. Like most of you, I live on campus; my home is on South University Avenue, across from the Law Quad, and I would love to meet you.
You are now members of one of the greatest academic communities in the world. We value learning, collaborating and contributing, with students at the center of it all.
We want your ideas, your enthusiasm, and your many different voices.
And we want you to “do good.”
Welcome again, and Go Blue!