Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rutgers University Faculty Convocation Address: Next Stop RU

On behalf of my faculty colleagues, welcome to Rutgers. You join Rutgers at an awesome time. Our move to the Big Ten will offer you lots of opportunities to build school pride, but our shift will also offer you more academic choices.

The goal of my remarks is to get each of you to make several commitments. No, not to take the ALS ice bucket challenge, but to commit to “advancing the common good”, the mission of United Way World Wide, the nation’s largest charity.

How can you “advance the common good?”

Simply put, commit your Rutgers experience to becoming a life-long learner, an independent thinker, and a responsible citizen.

Why a life-long learner? At my father’s retirement luncheon, his fellow computer scientists commented on how he was always learning, always reinventing himself, and always making himself relevant. As a result, he never faced unemployment during his over 40 year career. Today, he paints, plays golf and advises small businesses.

Why an independent thinker? If you ask questions, if you challenge yourself, if you make yourself feel uncomfortable, then you will fully take advantage of the amazing opportunities here.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That is how we learn best. That’s how we build character. Growing up, the father of the founder of Spanx would ask her what she failed at during the day. The question baffled her. However, over time, she learned that to become a successful entrepreneur, she needed to feel comfortable taking risk, feel comfortable in stressful situations, learn how to respond to setbacks, and learn how to accept criticism.

Why a responsible citizen? Rutgers will prepare you to solve the world’s problems because we are at the heart of the three major trends that continue to reshape our lives: globalization, technological change, and growing population diversity.

Because of our unique position, you will have opportunities to discuss and develop solutions for communities like Ferguson, Missouri, develop cures for the deadliest diseases, figure out how to get Congress to work, and in a variety of disciplines learn about the past, such that we don’t make the horrors of the past, our future. That is why we call Rutgers, a university. The universe is literally at your fingertips. Embrace it.

As I mentioned earlier, if you take full advantage of what Rutgers has to offer, at times “learning” will feel uncomfortable. Instead of your studies leading you to clarity, you may become profoundly confused, meaning you need to go to grad school.

Further, your generation has been raised in a faster-paced and more complicated world.

Because of that, I urge you to link opportunities for physical and spiritual growth with your intellectual opportunities. Linking them will create a three-legged stool on which you can sit comfortably, giving you balance in your life.

Finally, commit to complement your Instagram posts, U-tube and Vine viewing by reading at least one, short opinion piece called an Op-Ed per week in outlets such as the Targum, the New York Times, or the Star-Ledger.

In closing, on behalf of my over 5,000 colleagues, congratulations on choosing Rutgers as your next stop. Facebook’s Cheryl Sandburg urges young women to “lean in”. I ask all of you to “lean in” to your studies. Doing so will allow you to make the most of your RU experience and “advance the common good”.