Thousands of first-year Rochester Institute of Technology students starting their college careers this week were told to seize the opportunities available to them, get involved in clubs and activities, and don’t give up until they earn their diplomas.
“We need all of your ideas, your energy and your creativity because we have many complex problems to solve, and it’s going to take all of us, working together, to solve them,” said L. Kate Wright, associate professor in the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences, College of Science. She received this year’s Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching and delivered the keynote speech Wednesday to students at the Convocation for New Students and Families at the Gordon Field House.
Wright said a lot has changed at RIT in the past 10 years, including the student body, academic programs, national and international presence, research and scholarly output.
“But what has not changed has been our commitment to education and to helping all of our students achieve academic success,” she said.
The convocation was preceded by the annual Tiger Walk, where new students parade into the field house as RIT faculty, staff, alumni and parents cheer them on to a successful collegiate experience. RIT President Bill Destler gave hundreds of high fives to the students as they were welcomed to the RIT family.
This year, RIT has a record enrollment of about 19,000 students on its campuses in Rochester, including about 600 undergraduate students at RIT campuses in China, Croatia, Dubai and Kosovo.
This year’s freshman class is expected to be about 2,660, smaller than last year’s record class but on par with previous years. In addition, there are about 610 new students who transferred from other colleges. The record enrollment reflects the retention of more existing students and acceptance of more Ph.D. students.
Applications for admission set a record this year, up 7 percent from last year.
Freshmen have arrived at RIT from 47 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 54 foreign countries. Top countries represented are China, India, Canada, South Korea, Great Britain, France and Vietnam.
Their mean grade point average increased from 91 to 92 percent, with 38.2 percent of students coming from the top 10 percent of their class, versus 36 percent last year, said James Miller, senior vice president for Enrollment Management and Career Services. This year’s incoming class saw the highest number of women at 922.
RIT President Bill Destler showed a new video that demonstrated RIT’s “Greatness though Difference,” a theme in the university’s strategic plan.
“Where else can you find students on the same campus studying gaming, medical photography and engineering?” Destler asked. “Where else can you find students working with faculty to prove Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity? Where else can you find deaf students and hearing students working together on team projects? … It is this opportunity to grow intellectually in areas inside and outside of your major that makes an RIT experience so special.”
Sandra Johnson, senior vice president for Student Affairs, told students she hopes their individualism will shine. But in order to reach their academic and personal goals, “you will need to challenge yourself to be an engaged member of this vibrant community. I encourage you to ask yourself every day what you can do to surpass what you did yesterday. Embrace opportunities to work on behalf of those less fortunate and to lead positive change in the economic, social, cultural, political and technological arenas.”
Student Government President Andrea Shaver, a graphic design major from Frisco, Texas, donned the traditional orange blazer, something she told the students was an achievement for an introvert such as herself.
“College has helped me grow,” Shaver said. “It will help you grow too. In college, you have the opportunity to do or be whomever you want.”
She encouraged students to become involved in a fraternity or club, or just participate in activities throughout the year. Students can knit a sweater for the tiger statue, explore the natural beauty of the region, and “if you’d rather break out your Nerf gun and hunt zombies, well of course, you can do that.”
Shaver said the RIT faculty and staff make sure students have all the resources they need to be successful, whether it’s completing research, landing a co-op with your dream company or completing a project after spending 30 hours in a studio.
“Success is finding yourself, learning a lot and having fun,” she said.