New Student Convocation 2011



September 1, 2011

I want to join in the warm welcomes for the Class of 2015!

Nearly 40,000 high school seniors from around the world hoped to attend the University of Michigan this fall, and we wanted you – the most accomplished and interesting students among them. This is our night to celebrate the talent, energy and aspirations you bring to the University as our incoming class.

There is so much for you to discover.

A University of Michigan education is a passport – a ticket to creative thinking, diverse perspectives and unique personalities.

Your professors are among the best in the world: their work has led to scientific discoveries, new businesses, and transformative theories and technologies.

Whether at schools as diverse as Literature, Science and the Arts or as intimate as Art & Design, faculty are recognized year after year with Guggenheim Fellowships, Grammy Awards, and election to the National Academies and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

These scholars are ready to engage and inspire you. In turn, they expect you to challenge them, because they know – as well as your family and friends do – that you have strong opinions and good ideas. Never hesitate to share them.

Just as important as your professors are your peers. Your classmates will be the most interesting people you will come to know. Like you, they bring to our campus a multitude of experiences, beliefs and cultures. They will offer as much to your education as your faculty.

Where you go with all of this knowledge and energy is entirely up to you.

I’m sure that in your high school coursework you studied Robert Frost and his poem, “The Road Not Taken.” It famously concludes:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The road less traveled. It genuinely does present unique opportunities in your growth as an individual, a citizen and a leader.

College is about ideas and viewpoints and questions, and the myriad directions they take your mind. A Michigan education is about the firing of synapses and the connections you make – in the classroom, the coffee shop, the library, and the laboratory. It is about endless opportunities, countless possibilities and the willingness to follow new, different paths.

Here, you have the chance for a “full immersion” educational experience.

Our perspective is a global one, and I hope you'll engage in international experiences both here and abroad.

You join a remarkably innovative student body, and you may wish to join in one of the many entrepreneurial activities on campus -- from courses to business plan competitions. You'll be in good company: more than 5,000 Michigan students participated in entrepreneurial activities last year.

And one of the truly special characteristics of this University is its public ethos, its commitment to the public good. At Michigan we believe that you can do well and do good, too. We want to make the world a better place, and you will find more ways than you can count to help.

Your journey will sometimes be difficult, confusing and uncomfortable, and that’s to be expected. You need to travel outside of your comfort zone and explore different opinions, new foods, unusual surroundings, and people different than you. In short, be more than your major. I guarantee you will become a far more interesting person.

I’d like your journey to include one specific stop, and that is at my house. It’s an easy place to find – right on South University, across from the Law Quad. Please come by the afternoon of September 20 for an open house, so we can talk and I can hear about your aspirations.

Hundreds of thousands have embarked on this fascinating voyage we call the Michigan Difference. Michigan students through the generations have come to campus full of enthusiasm, apprehension, confidence and questions. Some have famous names, such as Gerald Ford, Gilda Radner, James Earl Jones and Clarence Darrow. Alumnus Darren Criss is a huge hit on “Glee” and Tom Brady has three Super Bowl rings.

Others have famous accomplishments, such as the iPod, Google, JetBlue and “The Polar Express.” The CEO of Twitter is a Michigan graduate, as is the Secretary of the Interior.

All are part of the Michigan heritage you are about to experience and shape. We are known for our learning communities, our research programs for undergraduates, and intimate seminars for first-year students. We are proud of our commitment to public service. And we celebrate our remarkable students – students like you, who are ready to explore, explain, and change the world.

I mentioned Robert Frost earlier for two reasons.

First, for his memorable poem and our hope that you will venture toward the unknown, the road less traveled.

And second, because Robert Frost was a member of the Michigan community. Ninety years ago this fall, he arrived in Ann Arbor to join the faculty and begin a fellowship in creative arts.

Like you, he had to learn the campus streets and buildings. Like you, the University provided housing for him.

And, like you, he expected to have a good time outside of the classroom. He told a friend: “There will be music and dancing and college yelling.”

There is always college yelling.

Frost was popular, thoughtful and productive. His volume of poems called New Hampshire, written largely during his time here, earned him the Pulitzer Prize.

Decades after his time on campus, Robert Frost returned to Michigan. He stood on this very stage, reflected on his days interacting with U-M students, and genuinely enjoyed himself.

This is our hope for you as Michigan students.

That you will express yourself creatively, whether through words, laboratory formulas, student organizations or community service.

That you make friends who both challenge and support you.

That you be productive and find ways to contribute to the world around you.

And that you develop a deep affection for Michigan, one that resonates long after leaving the University.

We are thrilled your journey is under way. Welcome, again, to the University of Michigan. And Go Blue!