On behalf of the faculty, I want to welcome you to the Colleges for the academic year 2002-2003. For those of you who are here for the first time, you can anticipate four of the most exciting years of your life. For students who are coming back for a second, third, fourth or for a few of you, even a fifth year, we are confident that this coming year will be as stimulating and meaningful as those in the past.
Students see each year at college as an academic and social experience and for some, a competitive athletic challenge. However, too often the social life and athletic competition start to take up more and more time and gain more and more importance. We on the faculty want to remind you that you can have a meaningful and fulfilling social and even athletic experience somewhere else for a lot less money. The fundamental reason to come to these colleges and spend four years of your life is to explore new ideas, accumulate knowledge about a wide variety of subjects, find interconnections between those kernels of knowledge and learn invaluable reading, writing, speaking, quantitative and research skills. This academic experience will help determine your path in life for the next 70 years and will be a part of you wherever you go from here.
The reality is that some of the social relationships you make here will endure, but most will not. Many of the athletic experiences you have will be memorable, but over time their importance will diminish. It is the knowledge and skills you gain and develop at Hobart and William Smith that will be with you forever.
We on the faculty believe that you will succeed in life if you leave this institution with both a concentration of knowledge in a major and minor and a broad education as explained in the eight goals of the curriculum. We are convinced that any student who meets these graduation requirements is an intelligent person, will find a meaningful job, and will always be constructively engaged in community and social life. Let me say a few words about these three outcomes.
The faculty at these colleges are a fascinating but obsessed group of people who unlike most Americans are interested in knowledge, in and of itself. We feel it is important for every person to have an interest in learning everything-it keeps your mind alert, it brings personal satisfaction and pleasure, and for some of you, it will lead to great insights that will help both you and society at large. So we strive in every class and in all of our interactions with students to instill an appreciation of learning-most Hobart and William Smith students get the message and graduate with an education that can match that of any other college or university in the United States.
All of the employers I have ever spoken with have told me the same thing-they are looking for intelligent, quick learners who have college-level oral, writing and quantitative skills. Virtually no college graduates know how to do the work they find-they need on-the-job training and that is why smart, fast learners are so prized-they only have to be told once-perhaps twice-what to do, and then they get it and do the job well. This ability to think and synthesize knowledge is what we are trying to train you to do in every course that we teach and virtually all of you figure out how to learn quickly.
Finally, we also want you to be able to fully participate in the world around you for the next 70 years. That means giving you the skills and knowledge to contribute to public and private discussions about political issues, the economy, social relations, religion, historical events, the latest best seller, the ethics of cloning, environmental pollution in your neighborhood, the development of your children, the latest scientific advances in medicine, photovoltaics and food additives, the new art exhibit at the local museum and the latest play, music or dance concert. A broad-based education allows you to partake in all facets of life and to understand, or know where to go to acquire the knowledge to understand, the vast amount of information that we receive daily.
There is one other aspect of your education that we, the faculty, are very concerned about at Hobart and William Smith. That is your understanding of other cultures and societies in our increasingly interconnected, globalized world. That is why we encourage you to study another language, which gives you an insight into how other people view and explain the world. That is also why we have one of the best and most comprehensive term abroad programs in the United States with sites on every continent. We sincerely hope you will take advantage of at least one of these abroad programs-the experience will enrich your life, broaden your horizons, give you a maturity you cannot gain by staying at Hobart and William Smith and change you in many positive ways.
For a much more over the top explanation of the issues I have raised here, check out the Hobart and William Smith Web site and read why these colleges are-and I quote-"ferociously and totally liberal arts." That article goes on to state that Judge Stern filled his tool box while at the Colleges and went on to accomplish impressive deeds for himself, for all Americans and now for our community with the construction of Stern Hall for the Social Sciences.
So what should you do this coming year? Take a course in some subject that you were always curious about, pursue something that interests you, explore an area that you know nothing about, take a course that hones your writing skills, volunteer for a service activity, or sign up for an abroad program. Go to a lecture sponsored by the Presidential Forum, or the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men or listen to some of the many other speakers that come to campus. Take in some of the many showings of educational films or attend an art opening at Houghton House, enjoy a Koshare dance performance, a play in Bartlett Theater, or one of the concerts on campus or at the Smith Opera House. The opportunities are overwhelming, so pick and choose, but don't be afraid to take chances since you can never be sure what event might change your life and lead you in new directions. Most important of all, don't let your social circle dominate your life so that you and your friends sit in your dorm room listening to the latest tunes and talking instead of attending an interesting and stimulating discussion on campus-like this one. As I look out at this convocation that is exactly what many of your classmates are doing right now! You can always listen to music and schmooze but you may never again have the opportunity to see and hear Judge Stern-or for that matter me. Seize the moment and take charge of your education-don't be passive and let the opportunities pass you by.
In closing, let me make a few more suggestions for the year. Talk to faculty in class, after class, or during their office hours, watch the news on TV and discuss current events with your roommates, share your thoughts about class topics with other students, read books for pleasure and tell friends about the good ones, start your papers early so that you can rewrite them and be proud of your work. Then when all of your academic tasks are done, take time to relax and socialize and play sports. Good time management will allow you to accomplish it all-for example, you have come to this convocation today and afterwards you will have plenty of time to do some homework and still see the finals of American Idol on TV tonight.
Ten years from now, you will look back on your experience this year and the other three years you spent at Hobart and William Smith and marvel at the knowledge and skills you gained, the great job you have and the impact you have made on your family, friends and community.
Good luck and let's all make this academic year a good and memorable one.
Faculty Response, Alan Frishman, Professor of Economics
Convocation, September 3, 2002