Packed into the Duke Chapel, the Class of 2016 was encouraged to seize opportunities throughout their college experience as part of Wednesday’s Convocation ceremony.
Selected from over 31,000 applicants from more than 50 countries, the freshmen were advised to take advantage of the resources provided by the University in order to expand their knowledge and challenge themselves. Administrators who spoke encouraged the students to begin their undergraduate career with an inquisitive and flexible attitude.
“We not only tolerate your participation, we welcome and expect it,” Brodhead said. “But to get the benefit of all that I describe… you have to throw yourself into this place, you have to reach out and seize the opportunities that will surround you—you won’t reap Duke’s bounty if you don’t take some initiative.”
In his speech, Brodhead noted that 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the acceptance of the first black students to Duke.
The ceremony also integrated social media. Christoph Guttentag, dean of undegraduate admissions, replaced his traditional reading of humorous email addresses among the freshman class with entertaining tweets about the move-in process, and Stephen Nowicki, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education, began his speech by tweeting a picture of his audience.
Guttentag, who gave his traditional profile of the incoming class, noted that 49 states were represented.
“Please, if you meet a high school student this year from Montana, encourage him or her to come to Duke,” he quipped.
Nowicki continued the ceremony’s forward-thinking themes by comparing the freshman class to the Curiosity Rover.
“Like the landing of Curiosity on Mars, your arrival at Duke is a remarkable achievement and one worth celebrating,” Nowicki said. “I’ve asked you to stretch yourself, to try new things, to find your passions, and to let your own curiosity—the trait, not the Mars rover—guide you.”
Senior Alex Swain, president of Duke Student Government, advised freshmen to explore their passions and discover new ones, make a difference and get to know their peers.
Freshman Jennifer Garand said she appreciated the speakers’ acknowledgement that college is a daunting experience.
“I really liked that everyone who spoke mentioned that it’s really tough the first week,” she said.
Freshmen Justin Park and Brendan O’Brien added that the ceremony was uplifting, noting the sense of unity and opportunity generated by the speakers.
“The door is open wide,” Brodhead said. “Come in and enjoy it. Come take the great new life you’ve earned.”