Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bicentennial Class of 2017 encouraged to embrace the U-M experience

President Mary Sue Coleman told Class of 2017 students and their parents at the New Student Convocation that they are U-M's bicentennial class, marking 200 years of leadership and impact.

  MSC convocation

President Mary Sue Coleman welcomes students and their parents to U-M at the annual New Student Convocation. (Photo by Scott C.Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

"Two centuries of scholarship have shaped individuals at the University of Michigan as profoundly as they themselves have changed the world. Now it's your turn," she said, at the annual event Thursday at the Crisler Center.

Coleman told students that while much has changed at Michigan over the decades, and more changes will come during their student years, the biggest changes in store are personal — those that come with critical thinking and the life of the mind.

"You will succeed, stumble, and succeed again. There is no safer place to fail than a university, because this is an environment that encourages boldness and invention," she said.

Ted Spencer, associate vice provost and executive director of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, told students they will experience a tradition of excellence that crosses boundaries and encompasses academics, athletics, the arts, medicine, research and personal achievement.

He said the university set a record for applications this year with more than 46,000 for some 6,000 freshman spaces. Nearly 37,000 of those applications were from out of state. He said the largest number of international applications came from China, followed by India, Singapore, Korea and Canada.

"We learned, through your applications and essays, about your commitment to community, how you volunteered and participated in neighborhood service projects. We discovered many of you were dedicated to your families, working at businesses started by your parents or grandparents. We realized that you cared about the world around you — you tutored, mentored, raised funds and helped the environment," he said.

Manzil convocation  

The student group Michigan Manzil presents its Bollywood-style music and dance for the crowd at the New Student Convocation on Thursday. (Photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography)


Spencer provided a snapshot of the class of 2017:

• The average high school grade-point average for this year's class is 3.8.

• Twenty-one percent of the class achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA, an increase from last year.

• Thirty-nine percent of the class had an ACT composite score between 31 and 36, while only 4 percent of students nationwide achieved that high level, and 112 more incoming students than last year had a perfect score on the SAT.

Members of this year's class already have published books, developed apps, traveled far from home, and even started their own businesses, Spencer said.

Provost Martha E. Pollack talked of the experience of Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who earned a degree in computer science from U-M in 1985. Along the way, he tried a course in theater. She told the students the class reinforced an interest in making others laugh, and Costolo was successful trying stand-up comedy at open mic night at the Michigan Union. He tried a career in comedy, worked at Second City in Chicago, but returned to computer science and developed three companies, before becoming Twitter CEO.

  Pollack convocation

Provost Martha E. Pollack encourages students to be open-minded and explore during their years at U-M. (Photo by Scott C.Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

"He said he believes that the time he spent doing comedy taught him important lessons that have contributed to his success in the tech world," Pollack said, adding comedy taught him how to respond to new ideas, improvise, and reinvent the company.

"There's probably no other time in your life when you'll have as much opportunity to expose yourself to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Be open-minded. Explore. Go outside your comfort zone. Take advantage of all this university has to offer," she said.

Coleman told the Class of 2017 that they are standard bearers of a remarkable heritage of Michigan alumni. Along with Costolo, they include the inventor of the iPod, the co-founder of Google, the first woman to lead a university in China, the first American to walk in space, the screenwriter of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and the 38th president of the United States.

"Your professors are among the best in the world. They will test you, in the best sense," she said, encouraging students to "push forward with bold ideas and crazy dreams."

Band convocation
Members of the Michigan Marching Band lead the New Student Convocation crowd in "The Victors." (Photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography)