President David Munson addresses crowd at New Student Convocation

A. Sue Weisler

President David Munson spoke to the crowd during New Student Orientation on Aug. 22 in the Gordon Field House. Below is the full text of his speech:

Thank you, Provost Granberg. And let me say how much I look forward to working with you as RIT’s new provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. As she mentioned earlier, Ellen officially joined us just two days ago. She, too, is a long-time educator and researcher and comes to RIT from Clemson University. Ellen, welcome! We are so happy that you are joining the RIT family. I just have to let you know one thing: Clemson Tigers are no match for RIT Tigers!

It is with great pleasure that I welcome all students, both new and returning, graduate and undergraduate, freshmen and transfers, to RIT. It is also my pleasure to welcome all parents and friends of our students who are here to wish them well and send them off on their educational journey. Your love and support will be incredibly important to them in the coming years.

Students – I have a great deal in common with you. My wife, Nancy, and I are relatively new to RIT – we are starting our second year. We have found that RIT is a university like no other – it is a welcoming community and one that is totally invested in your success.

It is a university where technology, the arts, and design intersect in ways that will improve our communities, our nation, and our world. We have RIT Tigers all around the globe shaping and improving the world. And now it’s your turn.

RIT is a diverse place, with the presence of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf adding to RIT’s uniqueness. As you’ve heard from Dr. Johnson and your Student Government President Bobby Moakley, we are ready to provide you with an amazing array of opportunities to complement your academic life with offerings in almost any area you can imagine. As Mr. Gelsomino explained, faculty are anxious to work with you – both in and outside of classes – to teach you, challenge you, and help you unlock the creativity and innovation that lives in each of you. Staff across campus look forward to supporting and encouraging you as you continue on your journey to graduation. In short, we are ready to help you make the most of your studies here. But I won’t try to fool you – RIT is not an easy place. You will be challenged daily and you will push the limits of your comfort zones on a regular basis – but mostly in good ways.

Let me talk a bit about students at RIT. They are curious. They want to learn how to turn their ideas into action. They are passionate about what they do and have a real sense of purpose. I envision that for all of you and I am excited about how your passions and purpose will evolve and emerge. But to get there, you will have to work really hard and be willing to push yourself farther than you ever have before.

Although we will challenge you and push you on a regular basis, you will find RIT to be a supportive place. No matter where you come from – small towns, big city suburbs, inner cities, rural areas, other countries – there are people and organizations here to help you. Whether you are the first in your family to attend college or the 10th – we have structures in place to help you navigate RIT’s systems and processes. If you feel like giving up at any point – don’t.  Just reach out to your faculty, classmate, lab partner, academic advisor, RA, roommate, friend, coach…and they will be ready to help you through the tough times. Be thoughtful in your decisions about your academics and your personal life and look out for one another. 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 let loose your creativity and put it 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!

As you start to unleash your academic potential, I encourage you to value and appreciate each other. 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 then give you opportunities to actually engage. These and other experiences outside the classroom may be as important as your academic studies. Don’t miss chances to develop your skills in communication, critical thinking, problem solving and leadership.

One can never underestimate the power of our students and their ideas, supported by outstanding faculty and staff, to do great things. As RIT continues to become more research oriented, you, our students, will be at the forefront. We wish for RIT to be the most student-centered research university in the nation as we educate the future leaders of society. 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. I look forward to standing in front of you in a few short years, applauding your graduation!

Finally, GO TIGERS!