New Student Convocation

Remarks of President Richard L. McCormick
August 30, 2008

Welcome to Rutgers! And I do mean welcome.

We want you to think of Rutgers as home. A really, really big home, with a golf course, over 2,000 bathrooms, and 27,000 very talented brothers and sisters.

Before you even take a test or turn in a single paper, I want you to feel proud of what you have already achieved. You have gained admission to an outstanding university and join a tradition that dates back to 1766. You take your place in an academic community that values intellectual curiosity and where you will learn from professors who are addressing some of the most difficult human and global challenges.

While Scarlet is the color of Rutgers, you bring a countless array of colors and shadings to your life here. Some of you may be continuing a family legacy of attending Rutgers, while others are the first in your family to attend college. You arrived here from the Jersey Shore and Bergen County, from western Pennsylvania and south Florida, from England and India. Most of you are fresh out of high school, but some have transferred from another college and others are nontraditional students starting a bit later in life. Whatever your hometown or history, you are here now, you are Rutgers students, and we couldn’t be happier to welcome you.

Today you begin your Rutgers journey. Before you know it, I’ll be back in front of you at your graduation, perhaps offering platitudes about all you have learned and your obligations to society. But today my message is simply this: take risks and seize opportunities.

Sign up for a course that your high school friends would never in a million years imagine you taking. Join a club that matches your interests, but join another that stretches them. Take advantage of the remarkable diversity here at Rutgers. Take advantage of the extraordinary faculty here at Rutgers, and the vast range of lectures and cultural events that happen throughout the year. Immerse yourself in the life of the mind.

The New Brunswick Campus is a community of 44,000 students, faculty, and staff. Even if you started right now, you couldn’t possibly meet every single one of them. And even if you did, you’d probably forget most of their names.

But I do know you’ll meet truly inspiring people engaged in fascinating work, and I can’t wa11/19/2008ple like Professor Annie King, who is teaching one of the wonderful Byrne Family First-Year Seminars that nearly 1,200 of you are taking this fall. Her topic is “Baseball and Literature,” examining how the love of baseball has influenced so many writers and novelists.

You may also meet people like Dr. Josh Kohut of Rutgers’ Coastal Ocean Observation Lab. Assisted by undergraduates like you, he is a lead engineer on a project that is sending a seven-foot-long underwater gliding robot across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s now halfway across, and along the way, it is collecting valuable ocean data and sending it back to Rutgers.

And you’ll meet fellow students doing exciting work through the Aresty Research Center—such as Weis Baher, who is helping Professor Brad Evans restore a silent film that will be shown all over the country, or Dan O’Sullivan and Alexis Roldan, who are working with Professor Julie Fagan on a project that links consumption of aspartame and obesity.
I invite you to join this community of scholars with all your heart and mind. And not just in the classroom or lab but also in student government, or in the arts, or in sports at every level, or in the residence halls.

I said this to last year’s entering students, so I’d better say it to you, too: don’t be afraid to speak your mind, even if I live to regret these words. You are not yet the most learned members of our community; that may come in time. But you have the freshest eyes and the keenest enthusiasm. We need you to spot ways in which Rutgers can live out its ideals and its obligations more fully and to tell us what you see. Institutions like Rutgers can be more important than ever in society, providing they are true to their highest ideals.

Remember, you are not simply a consumer of a Rutgers education; you are now part of this university. You are now part of our 242-year history on the Banks. You are, now and forever, part of this community. You have privileges and responsibilities. And you have opportunities to do amazing things.

Welcome to Rutgers; make yourself at home!

Richard L. McCormick
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey