The University Record, September 5, 2000

Step outside your comfort zone, convocation speakers advise

By Britt Halvorson

Hundreds of incoming students streamed into the Michigan Union for ‘Escapade’ Aug. 31, following their formal welcome to the University at a convocation held in Hill Auditorium. They were led across campus by the Marching Band. Photo by Bill Wood, U-M Photo Services
Administrators and student leaders made their remarks short but stimulating to a sweltering, packed Hill Auditorium audience at New Student Convocation Aug. 31.

Highlights of the program included addresses by Nancy Cantor, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, President Lee C. Bollinger, Hideki Tsutsumi, president of Michigan Student Assembly (MSA), E. Royster Harper, interim vice president for student affairs, Theodore L. Spencer, director of undergraduate admissions, and Jacqueline E. Lawson, chair of the University Senate. The student a capella groups Amaizin’ Blue and 58 Greene also performed.

A brass quintet, a music group—Dicks and Janes—and Margo Halsted, university carillonist, provided entertainment before the ceremony. Afterwards, the Marching Band led students to Artscapade, a Welcome Week activity at the Museum of Art.

Convocation speakers told the Class of 2004 to challenge themselves while at Michigan, reaching beyond the comfortable for the valuable lessons possible from an encounter with novel activities, perspectives or ideas.

“Challenge yourself and challenge the status quo,” said Tsutsumi, who came to the United States four years ago from Japan. Tsutsumi suggested joining one of the more than 800 campus organizations, volunteering in a community service project in Detroit or participating in an activity like Dance Marathon.

With students from more than 120 countries and 50 states, it is easy to expose oneself to different ideas, Tsutsumi said.

“I had to challenge the status quo to become MSA president,” Tsutsumi, the group’s first international president, commented. After an unsuccessful first run for an assembly position, Tsutsumi carried a sign emblazoned with his name and announcing his candidacy for MSA president every day for a year.

“With hard work and determination anyone can achieve almost any goal,” he said.

Cantor stressed the importance of pushing oneself to experience the “novel, strange, terrifying.”

“We invite you to join our diverse scholarly community,” Cantor told the students. Joining this community, she noted, involves striking a balance between finding a place for oneself and expanding beyond one’s comfort zone.

“Doing both is very hard, but it’s all very worthwhile.” Cantor advised taking a course outside one’s school or college, becoming involved with a new social or extracurricular group, or taking a faculty member to lunch. With 19 schools and colleges, 34 residence halls and 841 recognized student groups, the University can be large and engrossing, but it also can be as small and rewarding as a relationship with a close study group, living-learning program, research colleague or roommate, Cantor said.

“You will learn as much from each other as from us,” she noted. “What today feels like exploration will tomorrow provide you with security and place.”

Bollinger focused on the new challenges incoming students face, as they separate from their parents for perhaps the first time. “This is an important moment,” he noted, as students leave the home they have likely known for many years and as they take on new responsibilities and freedoms.

Students can draw the most from the University, Bollinger said, by keeping five ideas in mind.

  • “Remind yourself continually of the preciousness of these years,” Bollinger advised. Many people think back to college as a “glorious episode,” and it’s important to seize all that the University experience can offer.

  • “Don’t overdo it.” Since Bollinger followed Spencer’s speech on the accomplishments of the Class of 2004, he joked with the students that they must not study their normal 12–15 hours a day, but try for eight instead.

  • “Enjoy your successes; let your successes go to your head,” Bollinger advised. Over the next few years, students will learn about strengths they never knew they had. They should learn about what they did to deserve the admiration of someone else and build on those accomplishments, he noted.

  • “Don’t let disappointments deprive you of your potential,” Bollinger warned. Defeat and disappointment likely lay ahead in some form. Not everything works out for the best.

  • “Understand, grasp the richness, the complexity of the world,” he noted. In order to continue learning of the intricate beauty of the human existence, one must work very, very hard. “A lifetime will not be enough,” Bollinger said. “But it is also true that an enhanced understanding brings a kind of pleasure that is unique and brings a joy to your life. This is your reward.”

    Bollinger concluded his address by offering the students a sample of the unique personalities and events the University offers to its community. Visits from Václav Havel, Arthur Miller, President Gerald Ford and the Royal Shakespeare Company present incoming students with an opportunity to experience differing angles of the rich, resonant and “stunning complexity of the world.”

    The Class of 2004

    Ted Spencer, director of undergraduate admissions, shared statistics that make the Class of 2004 unique.

  • More than 23,000 students, up from 21,000 last year, applied for 5,400 positions for admission.

  • Thirty percent of the class was elected to one or more high school student government offices.

  • More than 30 percent received all-city, league, county or state awards in athletics.

  • About 43 percent gave musical recitals at places like Carnegie Hall.

  • Fifty-one percent play a musical instrument.

  • More than 85 percent participated in school or community service organizations.

  • About 50 percent have published poems, stories, essays and articles, or worked as editors of their high school newspapers or yearbooks.

  • About 10 percent of the class members have started their own business.

  • More than 890 students scored between 750 and 800 on the verbal and math sections of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

  • More than 1,120 students scored between 31 and 36 on the English, math, reading or science portions of the American College Test (ACT).

  • More than 390 students had a perfect score of 36 on at least one ACT section.

  • The majority of the class had a 4.0 grade point average.

  • The Class of 2004 has the largest number of students who ranked in the top 10 percent of their graduating class, as compared to previous classes.

  • More than 2,000 students were members of a high school academic honor society.

  • About 3,000 entered the University with college credit due to high Advanced Placement test scores.

  • Fifty-one percent of the class are women.

  • Students from every state and almost every continent are represented in the Class of 2004.