August 24, 2017
Class of 2021 Urged To Embrace CMU Experience
By Heidi Opdyke
Carnegie Mellon University faculty, administrators and upperclassmen welcomed the Class of 2021 at Convocation, encouraging the new students to seize their opportunities.
"This is a wondrous moment in your life, and you have earned this rare opportunity to expand your horizons with some of the most gifted cohorts and accomplished scholars on the planet," said CMU Interim President Farnam Jahanian. "The next four years will undoubtedly be some of your most transformative years. You will begin lifelong friendships and discover passions that ignite your academic and professional careers. CMU will change you, and you will change CMU."
Interim Provost Laurie Weingart urged the incoming students to take advantage of the opportunities at CMU outside of the classroom.
"We are a community dedicated to the personal and intellectual growth of our students," Weingart said. "A community that nurtures learning, discovery and creative pursuits within and outside the classroom."
She said it was important for students to take care of themselves and each other and be open to sharing perspectives, listening and learning.
In the keynote address, CMU alumnus Mark Stehlik, assistant dean for outreach and a teaching professor in the School for Computer Science, told students to be flexible, but focused.
"You can't be fixated on one thing," he said. As a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon in the 1970s, Stehlik said his plans changed. Today, he is an award-winning teaching professor in CMU's School of Computer Science.
He also told students to ask for help and offer help.
"That's the Carnegie Mellon way, that's what will get you through this place," Stehlik said. "You can't be in a place that's world class and not push yourself. It just doesn't happen that way."
Stehlik said CMU is there to help students persevere, and like Weingart, he asked students to be an active part of the community by sharing their own experiences and listening to others.
"Find and amplify your own voice," said Stehlik, who added those voices might change as students interact with others who have had different experiences. "Don't stay silent."
"I learned at a very young age that the good and bad run in all classes, races, ethnicities, and religions. In a world where intellectuals are often mocked, and someone writes that women are biologically predisposed to not be successful in technical fields, you need to be able to discern the truth," Stehlik said. "Ideas, unlike people, are not all created equal. And you need to be able to use discerning eyes to figure that out. You can't be taught diversity, you have to experience it."
Student Body President Neal Choudhary, a senior in the Tepper School of Business, told the first-year students that they will be working alongside some of the smartest and hardest-working individuals in the world, and urged them to be resilient.
He told them to expect some failures, "but how you respond — that will make all the difference.
"See each failure as an opportunity," Choudhary said. "As a chance to build character and learn. See each failure as a way to persevere in the face of obstacles. If you do this, you will fail forward, and you will succeed."