New president welcomes, challenges new students

2,800 first-year students are the most diverse in RIT’s history

A. Sue Weisler

President David Munson addressed the crowd gathered for convocation for new students, which include 2,800 first-year students, 560 transfer students and 1,000 students beginning graduate study.

David Munson, who became RIT’s 10th president on July 1, welcomed new students to the RIT family today by saying he has something in common with them.

“I too, along with my wife, Nancy, am beginning my journey at RIT,” he said. “Like you, I am learning how to get around campus, trying to understand the lingo and culture of this university, and how I will make my way as I begin my tenure as your president. I have found that RIT is a university like no other. I am confident in saying that both you and I have made the right choice!”

Munson’s remarks were given during the convocation in the Gordon Field House for the new students, which include 2,800 first-year students, 560 transfer students and 1,000 students beginning graduate study. It is the most diverse freshman class in RIT’s history, with 29 percent identifying as a person of color, and 7 percent coming from outside the U.S.

“As you start to unleash your academic potential, I encourage you to learn from one another,” Munson said. “You will meet people who are very similar to you and you will also meet people who are very different from you. Be open to learning and growing. Learn how to discuss sensitive topics honestly and respectfully. Learn how to disagree. Learn how to become involved in your communities to effect positive change. Here at RIT we will provide you with guidance and opportunities to learn about community engagement and to actually do it. These and other experiences outside the classroom may be as important as your academic studies.”

He said he hopes RIT becomes the most student-centered research university in the country. “And along with preparation for a career, you will be positioned to lead lives of great purpose and consequence, far beyond your chosen field. …By working together, we can turn big dreams into reality. I am so excited by the possibilities and I hope you are too. I will be here to support you and to celebrate your accomplishments throughout your journey.”

Sandra Johnson, senior vice president for Student Affairs, told students they should be engaged in their new community and embrace each other’s strengths and differences.

“Each of you has a wide range of ambitions, expectations, dreams, passions and goals,” she said. “We do not expect — nor do we want — for you to be alike.”

She said students should seek out opportunities to engage in work that promotes positive change in the world. She said they will learn and grow from late-night conversations with their peers, by attending a performing arts or cultural event on or off campus, by being a member of a club, organization or athletic team, or working on a group project.

“Honestly, the opportunities you will encounter at RIT are endless,” Johnson said.

RIT Student Government President Farid Barquet told students their biggest enemies will be failure and frustration.

“Newsflash: Failure is a part of everyday life, and now that you are in college, you are going to fail a lot,” he said. “But it is how you react to this failure that’s going to define your time here.”

Barquet said he lost several elections in Student Government and in his fraternity before he won the Student Government president’s position.

“It sounds cliché, but every time a door closed, a new one opened,” he said. “Failure doesn’t have to be your enemy, it can be an opportunity. If everything in life came easy, if it wasn’t a challenge, we wouldn’t grow. And that’s exactly why we’re here at college, you are not just here to learn, you are here to grow, and, most importantly, you are here to live.”

Munson told students that RIT will challenge them daily and push the limits of their comfort zones on a regular basis, mostly in a good way.

“Be thoughtful in your decisions about your academics and your personal life and look out for one another,” he said. “In my short time here, I have found this university has the will and the resources to help students work harder and smarter. Take advantage of them. Ask questions. Ask why. Use your time at RIT to nurture your intellectual curiosity. Learn how to put your creativity to use. Take those hard classes, work on that stretch project, or try that new activity. Be involved in creating things that never before existed in an effort to improve the world. Make lots of friends. And yes, have fun along the way!”

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