Carnegie Mellon University
August 26, 2016

Convocation Sets Stage for a New Beginning

Heidi Opdyke / 412-268-7521 /


Carnegie Mellon University faculty, administrators and upperclassmen welcomed the Class of 2020 at Convocation, and speakers encouraged each one of the first-year students to be themselves and to live with a purpose.

Vaasavi Unnava, CMU's student body president, told students they have arrived at a playground of inspiration and were now part of the same institution that was home to Olympian Nada Arakji, the late Nobel Laureate John Nash and the late Kevlar inventor Stephanie Kwolek.

Unnava asked the Class of 2020 if they want to witness change or choose to create it.

"When you live intentionally you understand the depth and the capacity that those choices have to make the world a better place," she said.

"I hope this year's incoming freshman class gets the opportunity to be advocates for the Pittsburgh community, as well as for each other," she said. "I'm really excited for them to have that privilege of a Carnegie Mellon education and also the possibilities of how they can change the world with it."

Scott Sandage, an associate professor of history, delivered the keynote address and discussed what he learned about failure and success in writing his book "Born Losers: A History of Failure in America."

"Being too ambitious can be as dangerous as not being ambitious enough. And as much as I fail or succeed, I'll never be a failure or a success. I'll be me," he said.

"Over the next four years every time you hear bagpipes on campus, no matter what song they may be playing, whether you hear them close up or far away, let them remind you to stop a moment and pull back from the 'savage strife and stresses of the moment,'" he said quoting words from CMU's Alma Mater. "You will succeed often, and you may fail sometimes.

"But you will never be a failure at Carnegie Mellon. You will be you," Sandage said.

Provost and Chief Academic Officer Farnam Jahanian advised students to venture outside their academic boundaries, focus on the present and treat themselves with care.

"The next four years will be some of the most transformative of your lives," he said.

President Subra Suresh introduced the classes and programs to their respective deans, at which point students offered raucous cheers, from the Mellon College of Science's spoof on "YMCA" to the School of Computer Science chanting in binary code.

"You will learn to adapt, experiment, innovate, create, explore, achieve, enjoy and influence your own destiny and that of fellow travelers," President Suresh said. "My best wishes to you as you begin your lifelong connection to Carnegie Mellon University and as you prepare now for journeys yet to come and yet unknown. I wish you all the best."