Office of the President

Convocation Address Fall 2018

Good afternoon.

Thank you, Provost Musselman.

It is always great to welcome a new group of students and to greet my faculty and staff colleagues as we begin the new academic year.

No matter what your age or student classification, the start of a new year is a time of anticipation and excitement.

Let me congratulate all of our new Comets. Your “orbit” has just begun at what I consider to be one of the most exciting institutions in the nation.

From your first day in the classroom until the day you cross the stage with a diploma, you are studying at a dynamic world-class university.

So, here are some questions that I trust you will spend the next few years answering:

We are here to help you answer these questions, but for the most part, these are personal choices. Your answers will depend on decisions that you get to make.

At the very least, you are going to learn. If you show up for class, participate and prepare — you can’t help but increase your knowledge, especially from time spent with our fine faculty.

But we don’t expect you to remain on a fixed orbit during your time with us.

You are going to be challenged to define for yourself what it is that you want to learn, what you want to accomplish.

By the way, that applies to your time here at UT Dallas and later in life.

Indulge me while I take a moment to revisit Newton’s first law of motion: an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by a force.

Let the faculty, staff and fellow students of UT Dallas be the “Newtonian” forces that put new twists and turns in your life.

Try something you might not think you are naturally good at doing. It’s a challenge I myself have done.

For instance, if you’re good at math, take a poetry class. If you’re focused on business, take some biology or physics. If you’re an artist or a musician, take political science or finance.

Who knows what “aha” moments exist in that space between what you already know and what you don’t.

Seek out people who are different from you. I am willing to bet that, for most of you, UT Dallas is the most diverse community in which you have ever lived.

students at convocation

Take strength from that. Learn from the life’s experiences of your classmates and teachers.

And, have the courage to express your own convictions. Weigh in in on the important topics of the day, but …

Always keep an open mind to alternative viewpoints. It is fair to say that if you never change your mind on any topic, then you are not growing and learning at UT Dallas.

Recognize that every square inch of UT Dallas is a learning space of sorts, and every person that you meet is a teacher of sorts.

This is just the way we planned it!

Finally, I say to all of our students, regardless of whether you’re from Texas or from across the world … you are welcome here!

Each of you — because of your talents and hard work — deserves to be at UT Dallas. You make us a better university.

In closing, have a great time at UT Dallas, and take joy in all the “Newtonian” events that will enrich your life for years to come.

I will now turn the program back to Provost Musselman.