Speeches and Writing

Convocation 2011

Remarks prepared for Convocation 2011
September 1, 2011

Regents, faculty, students . . .  welcome . . .

Congratulations on being the Class of 2015, which, by just about every measure, is the best first-year class ever to enter the University of Minnesota.

There were almost 40,000 high school seniors who wanted to be here with you. Only 5,300 of you made it.

As a group, you have the highest average ACT scores in University history and there are among you an extraordinary number of National Merit Scholars, the most ever by far for any incoming U class, and, right now, the most among public universities in the Big Ten.

I feel like I'm one of you.

Now, I know that all of you took the StrengthsQuest assessment. I did, too. Here's what I learned about myself.

I'm an Achiever, I like being busy and productive. That's good.

I'm Analytical ... as you would expect a Chemical Engineer to be.

Competition is one of my strengths, excellent for someone who wants the University of Minnesota to be among the nation's and the world's best.

I'm good at Individualization, which is getting different kinds of folks to work together. And I'm a Learner, which makes sense for someone who spends most of his time on a college campus.

I'm sure you learned some new things about yourself through StrengthsQuest,   and you should use that knowledge over the next four years, as I'll use what I learned in my job.  You might remember this is a new job for me, too, and that you are my first ever class as the new President of the University of Minnesota.

You have accomplished so much to get here. Now, it's time to put your wonderful memories of childhood, adolescence and high school on a shelf. You're moving into a new world, leaving behind some great stuff, but transitioning into a spectacular phase of your life.

Face it, you're traveling from the security and successes of high school to the healthy uncertainty, giddy excitement, precious wonder and daunting challenges of college.

Most of you -- about 85 percent of you -- will be living away from home and your parents. So, classroom aside, you are entering a new zone of personal responsibility and self discovery.

Please be smart in your new world. Be an adult. Don't do anything stupid. I don't want you to find out that a big mistake can last a lifetime.

Look out for your new friends, roommates and Class of 2015 colleagues in this new world, too. Take care of each other.

This is a fun place. Join a club, participate on an intramural team, affiliate with students like you and different from you. Save the environment. Make friends. Study abroad. Volunteer in a day-care center or senior home or an animal shelter.

Be Gopher fans. Wear maroon and gold. Boo Badgers and Bison.
But know right here and right now that going to college, studying at this University, is serious business.

We intend for it to be rigorous. As President, it is my obligation and that of this University's faculty and staff to offer you special access to a world-class education, a global outlook and four years of excellence. This is a great and vast place, with brilliant teachers and researchers, marvelous facilities and peers who will push you to get better and smarter. 

Take from this University all that it provides. Give back to it with all your heart.

That's the bargain here. That's the deal. This is your moment, these are your four years.

As my tattoo suggests, I'm rooting for you!

Now, let me direct you to the white envelopes you were handed as you walked into Mariucci Arena . . .

Open the envelope please . . .

That tassel is a symbol of your Class of 2015.

Hang it where you will see it everyday  - in your room, on your laptop, on your roommate's nose - as a reminder that graduating in four years is your goal, and that we're all planning to reconvene in May of 2015 at your graduation.

Congratulations, and welcome to the great University of Minnesota!

Good luck.