The Convocation for New Students and Families features an academic procession; recognition of faculty; and welcoming remarks by RIT President Bill Destler, new Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Sandra Johnson, and RIT Student Government President Ashley Carrington. Below is the full text of Carrington's speech.
Hello RIT’s incoming class of 2014, and welcome to RIT! My name is Ashley Carrington and I am serving as the president for our Student Government for the 2014-2015 school year.
It was three years ago that I was sitting in the same exact seats that you are sitting in. I remember that day like it was yesterday—I was nervous, tired, hungry and excited all at the same time. Come to think of it, there were too many emotions going on for one person to be able to comprehend at once. But don’t worry—I got through the day, and you will, too. When I first got here, I wanted to meet new people and try new things—my only question was how? How do I meet these new people, how do I try these new experiences in this new chapter of my life? I’m sure many of you have heard this piece of advice before, but joining one of the many clubs and organizations here on campus is the fastest way to connecting yourself as a part of RIT’s community.
I came here looking for those new people and experiences, too. One day early in my freshman year I was walking through the tunnels—something you will be all too familiar with by the end of this year—and I saw a flier that stated "Apply Now for Student Government Freshman Senator." I said to myself, now that sounds like a good opportunity. I get to meet lots of new people while gaining a new experience in a position of leadership. I met all the requirements listed, so I applied. And I got past a few rounds, but then it came, an email saying that unfortunately I didn’t make it to the final round. I experienced my first failure in college—and of course it hurt. But I told myself maybe it was for the best, and that day I chose to get involved in many other areas and groups on campus. I became an athlete, joined a Major Student Organization, helped re-activate a fraternity, and overall met many great people and had amazing experiences along the way. I guess you can say my goal of meeting new people and gaining new experiences was attained.
Now here’s something important to realize about college, something that you may or may not already know. I know that each of you are good, you have to be good at something or else you wouldn’t be sitting in the seats you are now. You all did something to get you into RIT. Maybe you scored high on your SATs, maybe you’re a student athlete, maybe you were one of the top ranked people in your class as I’m sure many of you are. Whatever was the reason—you were accepted. But that moment you stepped onto this campus you no longer are the highest scorer, the best performer, or the top of your class. You are now surrounded by thousands of people who were also the best. College begins with an equal playing field. This is your chance to go beyond what you have known your entire life. This is your chance to be challenged by other high performing individuals and really push your limits. This is your time to be great, but it will take time, it won’t come easy and will not be handed to any of you.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret that may sound crazy, but you can hold me to it. You will learn more about yourself during your college years than you have over your entire life. Most of you will experience failure at least once while here—in fact, you will experience it many times. You may get that email one day saying that you unfortunately did not get the job you applied for, or you check MyCourses and got a low grade on a test when you expected to get an A. Remember that failures will come, but for each failure brings a new set of opportunities. If I hadn’t chosen to join more organizations, still be involved and try new things after I received that heartbreaking email saying I didn’t get accepted for Student Government Freshman Senator, then I wouldn’t be fortunate enough to be able to stand here and speak to each of you today.
Failure does not define you—failure opens the door for you to become something greater than what you were before. It’s OK to be nervous, it’s OK to be tired, it’s OK to be hungry, it’s OK to be excited, as long as you take those emotions and re-apply them in a positive way and strive towards success. The beautiful thing about greatness is it is not defined by what you do, but rather by who you are, and each individual establishes their own benchmark for greatness. Each one of you came to RIT good, and now it’s your time to be great.