New academic year begins with more than 18,500 students
Rochester Institute of Technology welcomed a record freshman class of 2,940 students and about 600 transfer students in August, bringing its total enrollment to more than 18,500 students – the highest in university history.
Jeremy Haefner, RIT’s provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, welcomed students and their families at convocation ceremonies Wednesday.
“We are delighted that you have chosen RIT for your journey into higher education,” Haefner said. “And what a journey it will be, filled with friends, faculty, frenetic times and fun — a fantastic intellectual adventure.”
Enrollment figures are preliminary. Yet college officials say projections show the academic quality of the freshman class is higher this year, and its diversity is greater.
“The demand for RIT continues to grow as the university’s brand emerges regionally, nationally and globally,” said Jim Miller, senior vice president for Enrollment Management and Career Services. “The academic quality and diversity of the new students, freshmen and transfers, continues to improve as we reach an all-time high for RIT enrollment.”
About 53 percent of the freshman class is from outside New York state, with the leading states from outside New York being Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and California. There are 174 freshmen from other countries, up from 112 last year. The leading countries are China, India, Canada, Nigeria and Pakistan. And RIT this year has about 3,100 graduate students, up about 2 percent from last year. Sixty percent of graduate students are from outside the U.S., with students from India, China, Saudi Arabia and the Dominican Republic leading the global enrollment.
“I am thrilled to welcome you and begin a new journey together,” said Sandra Johnson, senior vice president for Student Affairs. “Challenge yourself to be engaged, pay attention and ask yourself every day what you can do to surpass yesterday. Push your comfort zone — talk to people who have different interests and different backgrounds than you. Make your academic path the path of your dreams, not the convenient or safe route, or the dreams of others. And perhaps most importantly get involved in the life of this vibrant campus. You will have a more meaningful and memorable college experience if you open yourselves to the learning that happens in and out of the classroom.”
RIT President Bill Destler, who welcomed the students with high-fives as they marched en masse for 20 minutes into the Gordon Field House, encouraged them to “first find your footing in your academic studies, and then branch outward into the various opportunities for campus engagement that are available to you. It is this opportunity to grow intellectually in areas inside and outside of your major that makes an RIT experience so special.”
Keynote speaker was Joe Williams, a criminal justice lecturer in RIT’s College of Liberal Arts, who won the Outstanding Teaching Award for Non-Tenure Track Faculty this year. He told students to prioritize, make sacrifices and get help when they need it.
“Plant success in your minds and nourish it daily,” he told the students. “In the end, it will pay off.”
RIT Student Government President Nick Giordano told students to get involved in some of the more than 200 clubs and organizations on campus, and take advantage of things like bike rentals, wellness classes and leadership opportunities.
“Here at RIT, you have the unique possibility of progressing yourself in every way possible,” he said. “We are all on that path of growth, and sometimes you’ll have no idea where your path takes you. Sometimes there may not even be a path to follow at all. The path you take from here on out is determined by nobody else but yourself, your convictions and your dedication to finding the way.”
He told students they can always rely on the RIT community for support when they need it, from faculty, staff and fellow students.
“You are going to have a blast here,” Giordano said. “It’ll be the best and craziest years of your life. You will learn your limits, face them head first, then break free of them as if they never existed in the first place. So go ahead, make your paths, and we’ll all be here to help you through along the way.”