Syracuse University Chancellor and President Kenneth A. Shaw’s Charge and Address to Students
Upon certification by the Office of Admissions, I admit you to our community, with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities pertaining.
I charge you to take full advantage of the opportunities before you.
We accept the responsibility to provide these opportunities.
You must seize them to make them meaningful in your lives.
All right. Now you are official, Grade A, duly-certified students of Syracuse University and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
You are now part of a truly impressive community. You join more than 14,000 current students, graduate and undergraduate; more than 4,000 faculty and staff members; and more than 160,000 alumni around the world.
That last group includes men and women who are literally changing the world – through scientific discovery, scholarly studies, mass communication, international commerce, creative accomplishments and so much more. They carry the Syracuse University experience and traditions with them wherever they go, just as you will from this day forward.
They are proud to be Orange, proud of their SU degree and eager to share their knowledge with others – just as you will be some day.
One of the ways we know we’re doing a good job – and we know we are! – is by the numbers of our alumni who send their sons and daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to us.
Some of them are with us today. So I’d like any SU alumni who are now proud family members of new students to stand.
Thank you. We are honored that you and all the families with us today have chosen us for the critical task of educating your children.Now all of you here are Orangemen and Orangewomen – Welcome to our family.
In no time at all you will know and embrace the several traditions that make Orangepersons unique: Traditions like the meaning of the number 44, the superiority of Otto the Orange among all college mascots, the import of the kissing bench and winning the NCAA men’s basketball national championship!
You’ve already experienced one of our proudest traditions, and that’s the welcome you received as you moved in over the last two days, thanks to the more than 400 Goon Squad members – upperclassmen and women who come to SU early to help you – and to the hundreds of faculty and staff members who also give of their time during Opening Weekend. Please join me in thanking them for their hard work.
Yet another Syracuse tradition is this hat that I’m wearing.
Yes, indeed, how many other university chancellors or presidents can say that twice a year they get to put on a bright orange topper like this and go out in public?
No, it’s only at SU that such a privilege is granted – It’s a great hat, don’t you think?
I have a few thoughts to share with our newest Orangepersons in just a moment.
But, first, some words for the mothers, fathers, and other loved ones here today.
We take the responsibility of educating your students very seriously, and we will make every effort to see that their time with us is productive, safe, enriching and even fun. We understand that many of you are doing without so your sons and daughters can be here. We mean to help them in every way we can to make you very proud.
Thank you for the love and hard work that have brought these fine young people to this point in our lives. Stay in touch and bring your concerns to our attention if need be.
A word of advice – Most of the time your children will keep you up to date on their activities, concerns and victories.
But if this doesn’t happen as often as you would like – and all you get when you call them is their answering machine – try this:
Send a brief note with the following postscript: “Enclosed please find a check for $50. Spend it on having a good time.” But don’t actually include the check. Then relax – you’ll get a call right away, I guarantee you.
Those of you who have sent a child off to college before can attest to my next statement:
You are about to witness an amazing transformation. The teenager seated next to you right now is about to blossom into full adulthood. Some of them may be nearly there already, some will require more time, but all of them will, certainly by commencement, emerge from this experience as strong, capable young men and women if they take full advantage of all that we offer at Syracuse University.
To the New Students
And now to the real purpose of today’s convocation – my welcome to the new students.
I am delighted you are here. You have been selected from a large pool of applicants to Syracuse University. We know you have the credentials to not only succeed at this institution but also to excel.
Some of you may know that this is my last academic year as Chancellor of SU. I welcomed my first class in August 1991, when you were entering the first grade, and I’ll bid goodbye to my last graduating class this coming May.
In the 12 years I’ve held this position, I’ve not only come to love this University, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to succeed here. My teachers have been the students who came before you and the members of our fine faculty and staff who are here to serve you.
By the way, we know that learning and growing isn’t an easy process. A colleague of mine said of her educational experience: “When I fell in love with learning, it was frequently an ugly thing. It threw me up against the wall, shook me up, and made me uncomfortable. Learning was often a raw, gripping, purposeful undertaking.”
Don’t get me wrong. We don’t want to make you miserable. But we do want you to stretch – to move beyond what you know – to work at grasping new ideas and taking on new experiences.
Now on to the things I have learned at SU. Of course, that list is long indeed, so I’ve chosen just three to highlight.
These are the three I think are most important for new students to keep in mind:
1. Getting help when you need it, 2. Putting in the time and effort for success,3. Making wise choices.
People choose to work at a university because they want to help students succeed. That’s as true for your history professor as it is for the men and women who keep our buildings and grounds in fine shape.
But none of them are mind readers. Some of them can probably do some magic tricks, but none of them can figure out exactly what you need just by looking at you.
That means you need to ask for help when you need it.
Here’s an SU example. Perhaps you’ll take a course in chemistry – not an easy subject, by any stretch of the imagination.
You find that a few weeks into the semester that you’re not doing well
You could decide that chemistry is just too hard, or that the teaching assistant has an accent that’s hard to understand – or that the professor is too scary to approach.
Better to be proactive by forming a study group with other students in the class, by meeting with the teaching assistant to explain your difficulty, by making an appointment with the scary professor for advice – by getting the help you need.
Putting in the time and effort
Successful students understand that what they put into an experience is directly related to what they get as results.
Your parents know this. They put in countless hours of work, frustration, lost sleep, worry and sheer drudgery in the process of raising you. And now they look on the fine product that you are and are very glad they did.
Here at SU we like to say that you’ll need to study about two hours for every hour of class. We’ve worked it out to approximately a 40-hour week. That’s a lot of studying, we know. But it yields a fine education in the end, and, I hasten to add, leaves plenty of time for fun and relaxation.
And to that end, I highly recommend the brochure you got from our Office of Student Affairs called “One Hundred and 44 Things to Do While at SU.” This is your chance to get to know not only this campus but also the great community that surrounds it.
Making wise choices
There’s no way around it. While you’re here, you’ll be making lots of choices – more than you’ve ever made on your own before. Some of these will be good choices, some not so good.
Of course, we hope that most of your choices will be good ones, but we also know that no one makes it through this life without making some bad choices – sometimes really bad choices – along the way. It’s often these detours that teach us valuable lessons.
But try very hard not to make the same bad choice twice.
Here are some good choices at SU:
? Study? Get enough sleep? Exercise? Make friends? Find satisfying extracurricular activities? Serve others – I believe that reaching out to others is a natural and very admirable human instinct. I also believe that those who are fortunate enough to go on to higher education – as you are – have an obligation to share what they have learned to the betterment of all. You will find numerous opportunities to be of service at SU through our Center for Public and Community Service, through the organizations you join and even through service learning for credit at your school or college. I urge you to take advantage of these as often as you can.
Here are some not so good choices:
? Poor time management, like trying to write that 20-page paper the day before it’s due or letting partying occupy too many hours of the week.? Poor money management, like spending your month’s allotment of funds in the first week.? Binge drinking or drug use. Unlike the first two bad choices, which can be quickly remedied, this kind of bad choice can have lasting and tragic consequences.
Never forget that you are in control of your destiny – more so now than at any time in your young life. Your choices matter. Make them good ones.
I want all of you to make giant strides toward reaching your full potential while you’re here.
I assure you that you can have a great deal of fun while you do so. Your only problem will be picking which of the hundreds of interesting activities available here.
When I see you on campus, my first question will be, “What are the three points I made today?” My second will be, “How are things going?” It’s the answer to the second question that I really care about because I want you to do well.
Congratulations on choosing Syracuse University – May the pride of the Orange always be with you.
Let’s make this a great year!