The University Record, September 5 , 1995

Students welcomed to campus

By Jane R. Elgass

The University last Wednesday evening celebrated the presence on campus of many of the nearly 5,000 new undergraduates at convocation ceremonies held in a very hot Hill Auditorium.

Presentations by administrators, faculty and students encouraged students to make the most of their experience here by seeking out the many opportunities the diverse community has to offer—both in and out of the classroom—and warned them of some of the inevitable pitfalls of university life.

A welcoming hand on behalf of the faculty was extended by Prof. George J. Brewer, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs.

He congratulated the students on their decision to select “one of the finest universities in the world. Your education is your highest responsibility,” he told the students.

Noting that he had six undergraduate students working in his laboratory last year, Brewer said: “There is a wealth of information here, many opportunities to work closely with faculty. Seek them out and you‘ll be the richer for these experiences.”

The University‘s expectations for members of the Class of 1999 were detailed by Vice President for Student Affairs Maureen A. Hartford. They include:

  • Getting an education and a degree.

  • Challenging the status quo.

  • Having a “healthy disregard for the impossible.”

  • Taking from the University and community, but also giving.

  • Being the leaders and best.

  • Leading with integrity.

  • Being “as comfortable with cooperation as you are with competition.”

  • “We also hope that you experience the magic that can happen here when all the pieces come together.”

    The good news/bad news was delivered by President James J. Duderstadt—introduced as “The Dude”—who pointed out to the students that they will be the last class to graduate in the 20th century, “although some of you may make it to the 21st.”

    Noting that they had been selected from among some 20,000 applicants, Duderstadt told the students that they are of “truly extraordinary quality,” and that they all have “accomplished something very special to get in.”

    That was the good news. The bad news: The U-M “is very challenging,” and succeeding here will take extra effort. “The 40-hour week doesn‘t apply. A sense of humor and lots of perseverance will be required.”

    Among the words of wisdom passed along by the president:

  • The U-M is not a small liberal arts college, but rather one of the world‘s great universities, dedicated to teaching, advancing knowledge and applying that knowledge to serve society.

    However, the U-M does not have to be large and impersonal, the president noted, encouraging the students to immerse themselves in the life of the University and to take advantage of the many opportunities within a number of “small communities” on campus.

  • The students will learn more outside of the classroom than in the classroom. “You will be exposed to one of the richest educational experiences on Earth ... at one of the most Świred‘ universities in the world,” the president said. “We expect you to play an active role in your education.”

  • “You‘re truly an extraordinary group of individuals who will become leaders in society, and you should design your education to prepare for leadership.”

    Duderstadt noted that preparing the students for a career is not the University‘s real mission. “The typical college graduate will change careers many times,” he said. “A college education is the first step in the long road to a lifetime of learning. We have a goal of liberal learning, of stimulating the spirit, of continuing to learn.”

    “It‘s OK to question why you are here, who you are, where you are going,” Michigan Student Assembly President Flint J. Wainess told the students.

    “It‘s OK to explore,” he said, urging them to make their residence hall rooms into “electronic cottages” where anything might be possible.

    “These are times of profound change,” he noted, “of a vast restructuring of the world. The peculiar task of our generation is to guide the waves of the future. These changes will take place from the Markleys and the Bursleys of the world.

    “It is with pleasure and trepidation I invite you to become architects of the future.”

    Mary L. Brake, associate professor of nuclear engineering, gave the students a rundown on “things I said to seniors I wish they‘d heard as freshmen.” Among them:

    n Major in what you are interested in. “Don‘t succumb to pressure from teachers, parents, Aunt Millie.” Change your major along the way, if necessary. “If you don‘t like what you are studying, you won‘t do well. Keep your eyes open for opportunities that would exploit your talents.”

    n You are among the best of the best, used to getting the highest grades. “This is a place with a lot of people like you, which is exciting,” but can sometimes cause paranoia. “Schedule your time. If you don‘t have time for lunch, you‘re studying too hard. And even if you flunk a course, it‘s not the end of the world. We can help you. Don‘t despair.”

    n Go to class and go to your professor‘s office hours, taking your work with you. Not everyone learns at the same rate and your teacher can sometimes have a quick, simple solution to what appears to be a massive problem. “The additional personal contact also comes in handy in terms of letters of recommendation,” Brake noted.

  • If you come down with a case of “senioritis” in your final year— “I‘ve picked the wrong major.” “I‘m tired of studying.”— “tough it out and finish and then worry about what to do with the rest of your life.”

    “It‘s a joy and a pleasure to interact with you, and that‘s what this University is all about,” Lester P. Monts told the students.

    “You now will always be a part of the University, part of an extended family tree,” noted Monts, who is vice provost for academic and multicultural affairs.

    He also urged the students to consider learning a lifelong process. “You now have the opportunity to broaden your lives. Take advantage of the rich resources of the University and Ann Arbor communities. Explore your options, use your imagination and creativity.”

    Also appearing at the convocation were University organist Marilyn Mason, who played the prelude, processional and recessional; soloist Sarah Asplund, a May graduate of the School of Music, who sang the national anthem; and the choral group The Friars, who delighted the audience with humorously presented works.

    American Sign Language interpretation was provided by Joan E. Smith.