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Breeden exhorts grad students to be ambitious

Some will graduate in just 18 months and some will be gracing campus for almost a decade, but this year's new class of graduate and professional students nevertheless gathered together as one Thursday for their convocation.

In his convocation address, Fuqua School of Business Dean Douglas Breeden told the 1,000-plus students to be aggressive with their research and studies at Duke.

"The impact on society of the research and applications that come out of graduate and professional school education is difficult to overestimate," said Breeden at Page Auditorium. "You should certainly feel that your studies here are likely to help you make this world a better place."

Breeden spoke at length about the contributions that students in the highest levels of education have made to the world over the past 100 years, and called on the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Graduate and Professional School Council President Rob Saunders, who took part in the ceremonies, said Breeden's real world experience in business and finance gave his speech a unique perspective and also addressed the unique concerns that many first-year students have.

"I always say that graduate and professional school is hard," Saunders said. "Everyone that goes into it has this little fear in the back of their mind that they're not going to get through it. Any type of encouraging words is helpful."

Breeden joked about the agony of finding out that a once-believed original research idea was already explored. He also told students that they should take their next years slowly and learn their subjects deeply.

"It is a time to understand, think about and discuss the important relationships and why things work the way they do," Breeden said. "Or why things don't make sense that you once thought did."

He also encouraged students to be as ambitious as possible in their research.

"Inspired by my teachers and colleagues, I have long felt that any great researcher should always be in pursuit of a Nobel Prize...." he said.

"If you too have 'outrageous ambitions,' as Duke's [former] great president Terry Sanford called them--if you seek to produce major discoveries, insights, products or services that change the world for the better--you'll fit right in at Duke."