Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, August 31, 2012

Coleman encourages Class of 2016 to 'make an impact'

The university community welcomes the arrival of incoming freshmen and the impact they will have on U-M and the world, President Mary Sue Coleman told them at the New Student Convocation on Thursday.

  President Mary Sue Coleman speaks to incoming students, telling them, "We are looking forward to how you are going to shape our campus with your energy and ideas." (Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography)

"We are looking forward to how you are going to shape our campus with your energy and ideas. That's what Michigan students do — they make an impact," she said.

Coleman said Michigan students came up with the university colors — maize and blue — and the Michigan fight song. She said former student and regent Arthur Hill funded construction of the convocation site, Hill Auditorium, which next year celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Noting that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Frost, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bruce Springsteen and Hillary Clinton have stood on its stage, she said, "I guarantee that in your time at Michigan, you will sit in this auditorium and be awestruck by a speaker or performer. Better yet, you yourself may amaze an audience with your talents."

Ted Spencer, associate vice provost and executive director of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, said that since its founding in 1817, U-M was one of the first universities to admit students from all over the country and the world. He said the diversity of the incoming freshman class upholds that tradition.

The student group Michigan Manzil entertains the convocation audience. The group's style showcases a mixture of song, dance and storytelling popularized by India's Bollywood film industry. (Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography)  

"You will join incoming freshmen from over 1,900 different high schools, anda student body representing all 50 states and over 120 countries," he said. The class was chosen from a record application pool of more than 42,000, for some 6,000 freshmen spaces. The largest number of international applications again came from China, India, Singapore, Korea and Canada.

Spencer provided a snapshot of the class of 2016:

• The average high school grade-point average for this year's class is 3.83.

• Twenty percent of the class achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA.

• Thirty-four percent had an ACT composite score between 31 and 36, while only 4 percent of students nationwide achieved that high level.

Many have volunteered or participated in community service efforts, worked at a family business or in an after-school job, or participated in music, choral or dance programs, club activities, tutoring or mentoring, fundraising and environmental efforts, student government and more.

Provost Phil Hanlon offered an example of how cognitive diversity and collaboration at U-M promote excellence.

From left, Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper, Central Student Government President Manish Parikh and President Mary Sue Coleman join the audience in "The Victors." (Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography)  

"You might think that the Solar Car Team, 100 strong, all major in engineering. Not so. Current team members come from many different schools and colleges including LSA, Art & Design, and business and engineering," he said.

Hanlon said that range of expertise helped solve a problem with the car spinning out on a wet track. Engineering students focused on the slippage coefficient of the tires, while communications studies and neurosciences students examined communications between the driver and race manager, and business students consulted technical experts in outside companies. Pooling their ideas, the team solved the problem, and this summer the Solar Car Team won its seventh North American championship and fourth in a row.

"You are joining a campus rich with diversity, where you will have opportunities to work with students and faculty with very different backgrounds, experiences and preferences," Hanlon said. "My advice to you is to embrace this, listen to and learn from the perspectives of others and be sure to share your own ideas."

Coleman said it is the university's job to create the best possible environment for students to do great things, by providing exceptional faculty, classmates, opportunities and the latest technologies.

"If you're using Google maps to explore Ann Arbor, or Google docs to share class projects, remember that before Larry Page co-founded Google, he was a Michigan undergraduate. He credits LeaderShape, a student life program we offer, with helping build the skills he needed to build Google," she said.

Coleman said Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, was a Michigan freshman majoring in computer science. In addition to studying algorithms and circuitry, he did standup comedy in the Michigan Union.

"Take advantage of all the technologies we offer. But always know that nothing replaces real-world connections that generate laughter, debate and the ‘Ah ha!' moment that comes with learning and interacting," she said. "As students at a great research university, you have thousands upon thousands of opportunities to meet your interests, your moods, and your style."