President David Munson's 2020 New Student Convocation address

It is with great pleasure that I—virtually—welcome all students, both new and returning, graduate and undergraduate, freshmen and transfers, to RIT. It is also my distinct pleasure to welcome all parents and friends of our students who are watching this livestream. Your love and support will be incredibly important to them in this atypical year and the years to come on their educational journey.

To our students, your path to RIT has no doubt been full of successes to celebrate—along with trials and tribulations. In addition to the usual challenges, your world has been turned upside down by a pandemic! We are living in truly historic times. You and your classmates already are special in persevering through such a daunting period.

The RIT community has been working very hard during the summer to construct a solid plan to reopen. The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors is the most important consideration. RIT Tigers are known for creativity, ingenuity, and problem solving. It’s this collaborative spirit that is allowing us to come back strong. We will:

  • Protect the health and safety of RIT faculty, staff, students, alumni, guests, and our surrounding communities;
  • Ensure the continued delivery of RIT’s high-quality educational and research experiences;
  • Provide a residential campus experience that is uniquely RIT;
  • Reinforce that all members of RIT share in the responsibility of keeping our community healthy and safe.

We acknowledge that what we are about to undertake, operating a campus safely during a pandemic, will be challenging. But, by working together and following our safety guidelines and procedures, we believe that we can be successful. A successful fall semester will require every member of RIT to work together and do their part. We all have a role to play. Protect yourself. Protect others. It is imperative that we be safe, which requires being smart.

By becoming an RIT Tiger, you have joined a university family that is like no other. It will be different from other years, but what won’t change is our desire to learn, the strong sense of connection with the RIT family, and our need to make the world a better place.  You heard from Provost Granberg about our reimagined learning environments that are addressing class sizes, study and meeting areas, safely accessing our world-class laboratories and studios, and more details on the academic front.

Thank you for putting your trust in our plan.

At RIT, we do things in our own special way by embracing the unconventional to be truly distinctive. That mentality of uniqueness is baked into our university, as we have no interest in the status quo. We are 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 moving forward with unique offerings and new ways to reach students, reflecting the university’s belief that creativity and critical thinking are essential life tools. We pride ourselves in preparing our graduates to be citizens of the world. That means preparing our students not just for jobs and careers, but also for life. In the RIT context, “innovation” takes on a rich meaning; it is not just about novelty or originality; it is about creating the tools, processes, and systems that will make things better than they are.

You will find that we put a high value on bringing goodness to the world. Today, more than ever, the world needs inspiring, collaborative, and original thinkers and doers with a deep commitment to the welfare of humanity. It all begins with people and, at RIT, we have an impressive assembly of creative individuals. This is a place where you can exercise your multiple talents, satisfy your thirst for learning and for doing, and experiment along the way.

RIT is a diverse place in many ways, 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, Shine DeHarder, 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. Our faculty are anxious to work with you, to teach you, challenge you, and help you unlock the creativity and innovation that lives within 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.

Let me tell you about RIT students. They are curious. They love to tinker. 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. And they are accepting of others. 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, rural areas, big-city suburbs, cities, other countries – there are people and organizations here to help you.  Whether you are the first in your family to attend college, or the tenth – 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 professors, classmate, lab partner, academic advisor, RA, roommate, friend, coach…and they will be ready to help you through the tough times. RIT has an extensive and growing range of resources and services available to support and serve students. Our intention is to create a healthy campus culture, so students succeed in reaching academic and personal goals.

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. 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.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 elevate, you, our students, will be at the forefront. 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 during your journey. I look forward to standing in front of you in a few short years, applauding your graduation!

Finally, GO TIGERS!