New Student Convocation 2012

Remarks of President Robert L. Barchi
September 1, 2012

Thanks, Dr. Edwards, and thanks to you all for that kind reception. Let me add my personal welcome to each and every one of you, the newest cohort of Scarlet Knights! I’m delighted to be part of your first official day at Rutgers. As Dr. Edwards mentioned, I just got here too… I really do understand how tough life can be when you can’t find the Starbucks in the morning! But don’t worry. Within a week, you will know just where to snag that first vente skinny double shot without hitting a long line, and you’ll be well on your way to making Rutgers your new home town. Just don’t get between me and my latte…..

But seriously, you are starting today on an incredibly exciting journey, a journey of personal discovery and personal development. Rutgers will change you; that’s what college is all about. It’s the ultimate opportunity to explore, to experiment with new intellectual directions, and to follow your dreams, particularly the ones that you haven’t even had yet. You will be changed by this place, by the professors who teach you, by the amazing people that you will meet and most of all by each other.

Although each of you stood out among your own peers to gain admission to Rutgers, you are now part of an entire class of outstanding individuals, each bringing his or her own special talents to the party. In this new “community of scholars” that you join today, you will learn at least as much from your fellow students in discussions outside of class as from your faculty in the classroom. Many will become lifelong friends, some business partners, perhaps one even a life partner. It’s all about the community; that’s the magic of the residential college experience. That’s what makes Rutgers so much more than just a collection of lectures. You and your families have invested a lot in your coming here, and all of us—your professors, the staff, your fellow students—are committed to making this experience rewarding, meaningful and ultimately unforgettable.

Now, some of you are experienced hands at this business. For our incoming transfer students, congratulations on choosing Rutgers! You already know the ropes of college life, and you have a lot to contribute to our community. We’re glad you came here; I know that we can add tremendously to your education, and that you will enrich the fabric of Rutgers.

Those of you who are beginning your college journey today hold a special distinction—you are going to be graduating in 2016, Rutgers’ 250th anniversary. What a party that’s going to be! Commencement 2016 will include an extra measure of pride in our shared Rutgers history, in our colonial roots, and in you. Trust me,  you will hear a lot about “Rutgers 250” over the next four years.

Today, all of you join a community of scholars that extends back two and a half centuries to the establishment of Queens College in 1766. The first students who enrolled here were men studying to be ministers. For decades, the whole college was so small it fit into one building. Matter of fact, Dr. Edwards and I have our offices in that exact building, known today as Old Queens.

Slowly, Queens College grew, took on a new name,  and then a new mission to serve the people of New Jersey. Over time, Rutgers added new schools, new majors, new courses of study. Research became a focus. And then came coeducation and programs to promote diversity. We evolved into a university, and ultimately the “state university.” With each change, Rutgers has become larger, more diverse, and more complex. Today, we are a university of nearly 60,000 students, three campuses, thousands of faculty and staff, and infinite possibilities.

You come to Rutgers at a particularly exciting time. Right now, we are undertaking an historic expansion in the health sciences, completing a new home for the Business School on this campus, and making a huge number of new opportunities available to you. With so many choices, there are no limits except your own imagination and drive. For example, we have had students who have majored in both Biology and French, or combined Finance and Physics. They have studied phytoplankton in Antarctica, worked at an orphanage in Bolivia, and performed Shakespeare at the Globe in England. A growing number of our students are doing undergraduate research, working side-by-side with our best faculty. Three of our undergraduates started a company that runs environmental adventure tours in Costa Rica. And all of these students, some recent graduates and some still here, started at Rutgers as you are now, wondering where their next few years would take them.

So I encourage you to think big about your Rutgers adventure. Be curious, discover your passions, and then go for it. The choices you make at Rutgers about courses and majors and clubs and sports will influence the careers you choose and the paths you take many years from now. 

But don’t let me give you the wrong impression; the journey you begin today isn’t going to be an easy one. Few really worthwhile things are. Defining yourself and your future is hard work. There are no shortcuts to a worthwhile education. At Rutgers, we take academic integrity very seriously; it is absolutely core to what we do and who we are. And personal integrity is a decision that each of you must make each and every day. Remember that you are here not to pick up rote knowledge or to achieve a certain GPA but to learn how to live, how to learn, how to ask great questions, how to contribute something of value to our society, and how to become the best person that you can be. 

Finally, and this is really important: Have fun. Each of you is now and forever part of Rutgers, a Scarlet Knight. How great is that! This is a time like none other in your life, a time you will remember all your life. Enjoy every minute of it. Once again, welcome to Rutgers!