Keynote speaker Neil Hair welcomes new students during convocation

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A. Sue Weisler

Neil Hair, associate professor of marketing in the E. Philip Saunders College of Business, welcomed new students and their families as keynote speaker during Student Convocation on Aug. 30.

Neil Hair, associate professor of marketing in the E. Philip Saunders College of Business, addressed new students and their families as part of New Student Convocation on Aug. 30 in the Gordon Field House.

Hair, who received the 2012 Eisenhart Award for Excellence in Teaching, the premier teaching award at RIT, hailed RIT for its academic excellence and encouraged students to take advantage of faculty experts and the vast alumni network.

Here is the full text of his speech:

“The provost sends me an e-mail saying, hey, how do you feel about talking to incoming students and their families?

“I said that sounds like a bit of a lot.

“I didn’t realize he meant all of them.

“So here I am.

“I have four things I want to talk to you about, and four things that really illustrate why this is such a great place. And congratulations, by the way, you have just successfully answered one of life’s most important questions: Where am I going to go to university? You chose the right answer, which is RIT.

“Four things, and there will be a test at the end.

“Number one: I'm going to talk to you about academic excellence.

“Number two: I'm going to talk to you about the importance of life outside of the classroom.

“Number three: I'm going to talk to you about RIT’s unsung hero.

“And number four, we will talk about how all of this comes together to make you super sexy at the end of your four, five or three year experience so that you, too, have a fake British accent like mine.

“Academic excellence. This place has stolen me twice from Oxford in the United Kingdom. We have internationally acclaimed colleges, make no mistake. We punch a lot higher than our weight.

“You might be lucky enough to sit across perfect someone like my best friend, Dr. Victor Perotti, you might be very fortunate to be a member of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences where you will actually rub shoulders with one of my other best friends, Deb Kingsbury.

“Debbie, I know you are out there. I love you. Thank you for everything you do for us.

“Faculty experts in the field, people that know how to do the things they tell you about, how to get the job done so that you will be more prepared when you start that job, four, five or three years from now on day one.

“We are practitioners and we are good at what we do. We are world-class researchers. We know what we are talking about, and you are going to get a state-of-the-art education. We use state-of-the-art delivery systems; no one in our classroom outside of the classroom are going to tell you to put away internet connects devices. You can access this stuff through just about every blended format known to man.

“There is a ‘T’ in RIT, and that is, of course, technology. We will show you how to use it effectively. You will get an applied, rigorous and more importantly than anything else, a memorable experience.

“Parents in the room, that moment when you put your son or daughter, I want you to take a photograph, because four years from now, they will look pretty different and they will know what they are doing, and they are going to get a job just like the rest of our graduating students, somewhere in the region of 95 percent of our students get jobs within the first couple of months.

“That is the gift RIT’s education will give to you. You have a bright future!

“But wait! There is more. Sorry, I'm a marketer.

“Remember, there is a life outside of the classroom, and it’s very important. You are going to be molded in your experience with us. The grades are really important, I’m not going to lie to you. It gets you the first job, it gets you into those institutes, but you have a wonderful opportunity as a young, bright, and I know you are bright because we don’t just let anybody in.

“I want you to take the life opportunities that you will find at RIT very seriously. You have a chance to reinvent yourself here, be that person you want to be or just enhance yourself.

“The richness of life that RIT offers, I mean, we have a juggling club, come on, a juggling club of all things.

“We have Olympic training facilities out there. We have a phenomenal world-class gym facility, you will be different physically and emotionally at the end of this experience.

“We also, believe it or not, are home to one of the world’s great cultural sites. We have more things to do on weekends than you can shake a stick at and that includes a fantastic wine region when you are 21, not before, no, no, no!

“But wait! There is even more! Call in the next half hour, the first 180,000 lucky network members, that’s what you are, by the way, you are joining an alumni association.

“The network is, as far as I’m concerned, the unsung heroes. Twenty, 30, 40 years from now when you forget the tools you have learned from your experience, you will still be in touch with those wonderful set of individuals that you went to college with, each other, your faculty, your friend, those getting out of RIT and those getting in.

“Look around, you are bright, creative intelligent people. Your network will give you a high level of competition that will throw other people out of the water at the point of your graduation, I believe it. I know it. I have seen it.

“Your ability to solve a problem, 9:00 Monday morning in that new job four years from now. You haven’t got a clue how are going to solve it, so you get in touch with your network and you have a solution from an RIT alum or friend that you met, one of those geeks that you knew at RIT. You have an answer in less than two minutes.

“That makes you incredibly competitive.

“That is the key differentiating factor of RIT. You will get a really good education from us, but you become part of one hell of a network. So don’t just focus on the grades. They are important. Reach out to professors and get to know us. We want you to do well, and I want you to engage with your cohorts. Engage the geeks, the anthropologists, those videographers, artists, designers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and also even those marketers, people like my good self.

“You can even interact with people like the furries, you have met Ritchie, and also the zombies.

“Good luck with that!

“So thinking about closing statements, I want you to take this notion of your network more seriously than anything else because it’s the ultimate thing that will give you this unique category of one that is viewed as an individual competing in the afterlife post graduation.

“Your network will not let you down.

“That includes us as faculty, that includes staff, that includes administrators and that includes yourselves, a phenomenal opportunity. The statistics suggest that upon graduation you will have built a network on Facebook or LinkedIn of over a thousand individuals.

“Imagine the competitive advantage that gives you. I didn’t have that at your stage. This is a phenomenal time to be young. It’s a phenomenal time to be here at RIT.

“A final comment, a riddle for you, some of you may have noticed that I have introduced four Americans, and they are on vacation, to Winston Churchill, who has been determined to be the greatest Brit of all time. Sir Winston died seven years before I was born. How did I do that?

“If one boring faculty member can put you in touch with someone as great as that, imagine what the rest of the faculty can do as well.

“So here is to you.

“YOLO! Make every second count!

“Welcome to RIT, welcome to the family!”