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2012 New Student Convocation

Aug. 21, 2012
Siegel Center

Thank you, Joe, for that introduction. And thank you for everything you’re doing to advance Virginia Commonwealth University.

We’re honored to be joined today by Kristen Iversen, who wrote the book that all of you have read. Or were supposed to read. We look forward to hearing her remarks in a few minutes.

I’m glad all of you are here today to begin your student experience at VCU. This is going to be a transformative time in your life, a time when you can become anything you imagine. It is a time, as we say, when you can “Make it Real.” We have become a national research university, which represents unlimited possibilities for students.

You know, “major national research university” is a phrase that you’re going to hear a lot. And I want you all to know that you are an important part of being a research university, and this sets certain expectations for you.

You are part of a great minority in the world. Did you know that only 6 percent of people in the world have a university degree? You will soon join them, and it’s our commitment to help you do so. And this will give you a great responsibility.

I heard recently about a new college student who was talking with a gentleman close to his grandfather’s age. The student said “you will never understand my generation! We grew up in an age of instant connectivity, space travel, nuclear energy, advanced medical care and many more things you never had.”

The older man: “You’re right, son. We didn’t have all those things when we were young ? so we invented them. Now what are YOU going to do for the next generation?”

My question to you today: What will you do to make a difference?

I challenge you to be committed to innovating, creating, leading and being your very best. Ask engaging and thoughtful questions, like Kristen Iversen did in her marvelous book, “Full Body Burden.” The culture in which Kristen grew up was one in which you do not ask questions, did not stir the pot and did not seek to change things. Kristen’s curiosity and drive to change her world made a difference for her and those around her. It also led to a compelling book that we have all enjoyed reading.

The culture at VCU is different. We encourage you to ask questions, think and learn how to learn. We know we can count on you to be highly successful, inspiring students. That is why we selected you to attend VCU, and it is why you chose to come to VCU.

More than ever, there was great interest nationally in coming to VCU. We had record applications because people recognize that we are taking our place among the nation’s premier research universities, and they want to be a part of that.

But we were selective in who we admitted to VCU. We chose only those of you who we believe will best benefit from learning in a research university environment, and who will best succeed here. Your class enters the university with the highest GPA and highest SAT scores of any entering freshman class in VCU history.

You have the power to continue to shape our university and its quality by just being who you are — combined with your commitment to making a difference.

I want you to commit to doing that.

And we will commit to you that we will build the campus and resources to strengthen the value of your degree. We will do everything we can to help you succeed, today and tomorrow.

At the end of the day, what we are is you. More importantly, your commitment to our commonwealth, our nation and our world.

I know I can count on you to be your very best, to be leaders, to be job creators — not simply job takers. Aim high, acquire as much knowledge as possible, but really focus on learning how to learn. By that, I mean: How to gather and evaluate information with integrity, how to analyze critically, how to evaluate and solve problems, how to understand that which we don’t know, how to unleash your creativity — particularly in ways that will benefit others, how to help people be well, how to save lives, and how to educate others.

This is learning how to learn — not just for four years, but for the rest of your lives. This is the full student experience. Commit yourself to use your education to make a difference, not just today but for tomorrow.

Thank you, and welcome to VCU.