Office of the President

Convocation Address Fall 2019

Good afternoon, and thank you, Provost Musselman.

As I look out on this audience, I would surmise that many of you grew up in Texas, while many others are from other states and countries. Wherever you call home, we are delighted to welcome you into the UT Dallas community.

This is no ordinary year in the history of UT Dallas, for this convocation marks the 50th anniversary of our incorporation in The University of Texas System. The legislation to establish UT Dallas was passed in 1969, and the signing of the bill by then-Governor Preston Smith took place outside Founders Building. I encourage you to consider that when you walk by that building. It was our first permanent structure. Just think of the thousands of students, faculty and staff that have walked through those halls over the past half century.

Our University is still young. It has a strong foundation in the STEM disciplines, business, and, increasingly, the arts. But like institutions around the world, technology has brought changes over the years — new approaches to design, new methods to solve problems, new influences in music and art. Even new ways to compete in sports. We now have a nationally-ranked e-sports team. Check them out! That certainly didn’t exist 50 years ago. Some of us here today, though, were pretty proficient in slide rule calculations and could handle a stack of punch-cards.

Even our language has evolved since 1969. For instance, the terms microchip and microprocessor first appeared in print that year. We can thank Jack Kilby at near-by Texas Instruments for that revolutionary development! 1969, by the way, was the year that I entered college as a freshman. If I get the chance to visit with you in person over the next year, let’s compare our experiences as first year students. I’m guessing they won’t be as different as you might think.

I do know that — just like you — I made a choice to come to UT Dallas. Not as a student, obviously, but my reasons are probably very similar to yours: the excellent faculty, the diverse student body, the innovative programs, the strong research emphasis, the beautiful campus, and the ability to help shape this young university.

Some of your classmates recently told us about their reasons for coming to UT Dallas. Let’s hear from them now.

Let me congratulate each of you on the very important decision to enroll at what I consider to be one of the most exciting institutions in the nation. In the very near term — as in tomorrow — you are going to face a few challenges that require some choices only you can make. So, I have some suggestions:

Choose to explore campus — intentionally or unintentionally.
Even if you’ve been on a campus tour, you didn’t see every building and every facility. Fortunately, we have an online map and an app with point-by-point directions to help you navigate. But I also hope you will make some discoveries in the process of finding your way around – a great place to study, a new place to sip your coffee in the morning, a comfortable place to catch up with friends.

Choose to be open to new pursuits.
Just like the exploration of our physical plant, I encourage you to take a different path by finding new activities or revisiting favorite extracurriculars. Sports, maybe? What about trying out for a theater production, or joining a club? The options are almost limitless. And if you can’t find exactly what you want, our many student service professionals can help guide you.

Choose to get a jump start on your future.
In addition to internships, investigate study abroad programs, seek out research opportunities, or enter academic competitions, to name a few. They provide experience and skill development that will enhance your degree.

Whatever you choose in your time here, make the most of it. Remember, if you show up for class, prepare and participate, you can’t help but increase your knowledge while defining for yourself what your future will hold. From your first day in the classroom until the day you cross the stage with a diploma, you deserve to be at UT Dallas. Your hard work and talent make us a better university.

In closing, enjoy UT Dallas and the experiences that will define your time here. Your choices will enrich your life for many years to come.

I will now turn the program back to Provost Musselman.