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2014 Freshman Convocation

Aug. 19, 2014
Siegel Center

Dave [Eggers], thank you for joining us and for writing such a remarkable book. You?re a man of tremendous wisdom, and we?re looking forward to hearing from you in just a few minutes.

And, Luke [Schultheis], thank you.

When we hired Luke two years ago, I gave him one job to do. But it was a very big job. I said: ?Help us enroll the best, brightest and most creative people in the world, who are truly diverse, who are truly extraordinary and who will continue to elevate VCU as one of the truly outstanding research universities in the nation. People who will make a huge difference for themselves, VCU and our world.?

He?s done that very, very well.

The proof is you, the Class of 2018. You are absolutely exceptional. You come to VCU with the highest average SAT score of any class in our long history. You are the most diverse. And you have enrolled in more credits than any freshman class. An astounding 86 percent of you have ?done the math? and are taking at least 15 credits this semester, putting you on track to graduate in four years so that you will, indeed, be the Class of 2018.

You are exceptional and distinctive. That?s why you?ve chosen to come to a university that is also exceptional and distinctive.

At VCU, we empower people to make new discoveries. Those discoveries may come in the laboratory, studio, classroom, clinic or community; or they may be personal discoveries about yourselves, or human connections, or life. Whatever discoveries you make while you?re here, I know you will use them to change the world and advance the human experience.

You came to VCU not just to get a degree and a good job, but to gain perspective and meaning ? and not only to prepare yourself for the world, but to see how you might lead it.

That?s why you?ve chosen a university where the academic experience is rigorous but never rigid. Your professors will be your mentors, and you?ll find that they care deeply about you and have great concern to see you succeed.

You?ve chosen to come to a university where you control so much about your educational experience ? and ultimately, your future.

If you want to be an engineer, entrepreneur, educator, or an advocate, artist, or astronaut, you can be any of those things ? but better! Because with your relentless commitment to innovate everywhere, you?ll change what it means to be an entrepreneur, or an engineer, or an artist, or an astronaut. You?ll change your field, change expectations and change the world.

And you can start doing that right now.

You know, some of my very favorite experiences at VCU have been the experiences that I get to share with you. Our students add so much life and energy to our community. You fill this environment with great ideas and limitless possibilities, and you help make VCU ? at its core ? a fun, cool place.

And a place where we expect all of our people to treat one another with mutual respect and dignity, so that we are all safe and free to become the very best versions of ourselves.

Just like your university, you are distinctive. You are exceptional.

You are bright, determined, fervent and ready to work harder than anyone else. This is what VCU is. We work together in creative ways ? artists with physicians, scientists with sociologists ? to tackle the really big problems that our society faces. We don?t avoid those big problems; we say, ?I?ll be the one who finally figures this out.?

This is what we do at VCU. This is what you?re going to do. And I?m so excited for you.

When I confer your diploma four years from now, I can?t wait to congratulate you and thank you for the difference you will have made. Until then, I?m delighted to welcome you to VCU and to wish you well.