President David Munson's 2021 New Student Convocation address

I am thrilled to welcome all students, both new and returning, graduate and undergraduate, freshmen and transfers, to RIT.  It is wonderful to look out and see our new students here in person and to know that we are starting fall semester in a “nearly normal” way.  It is also my pleasure to welcome all families and friends of our students who are watching via our live stream.  Your continuing love and support will be incredibly important to your students in the coming years.  We hope to be able to see you in person at other events later in the year.

Students, your path to RIT has not been a smooth one – full of ups and downs, trials and tribulations.  But I am sure there have been many successes to celebrate and one of them is having you join our community.  You have already proven to be good citizens by doing your part to keep the RIT community safe and healthy by complying with RIT vaccination requirements.  While we are starting the semester wearing masks, it is my hope that through our combined efforts, this will be a temporary measure.  Keep up the good work!

As part of our welcome, my wife, Nancy, and I prepped for your arrival by going around campus this summer and exploring some of the fun and unique things to do outside of the classroom.  I do have a quick disclaimer:  The footage for this video was captured mid-summer, prior to the latest indoor masking mandate. In any event, nothing can stop you from getting involved and taking advantage of the full university experience in our ever-transforming campus!! Here is a taste of life at RIT...

By becoming an RIT Tiger, you have joined a university family that is like no other. We do things in our own 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!

No doubt by now you have seen the huge construction project in the center of campus – the Student Hall for Exploration and Development, better known as the SHED.  This center is a game-changer for the university.  It will house classrooms, makerspaces, project teams, a dance studio, a black-box theater and plenty of collaboration space.  The RIT Library is undergoing extensive renovations as well, and later this year, you will see construction starting on a performing arts center and a major addition to the Saunders College of Business.  Also underway are projects in athletics – a new track and major upgrades to our baseball and softball fields, to be followed by construction of a new stadium.  Our campus is being transformed and the best part is that you will be able to use these new facilities.

In addition to the physical changes, RIT is moving forward with unique offerings for 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. Now 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 unusual assembly of exceptional 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 Lucas Randrianarivelo, 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 Dr. Bao explained, faculty are anxious to work with you – both in and outside of classes – to teach you, challenge you, and help you unlock and unleash the creativity and innovation that lives in each of you.  Staff from 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 RIT journey. 

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.  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 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 a faculty member, classmate, lab partner, academic advisor, RA, roommate, friend, coach, counselor…and they will be ready to help you through the tough times. RIT has an extensive range of resources and services available to support and serve students. Our goal is to maintain 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. 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.  Ask for help.  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 have fun along the way!

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. At the end of your undergraduate journey, many of you will move on to start fascinating careers, others will continue on with graduate school, while others will serve in a variety of other ways. We have just learned that RIT has been designated a Peace Corps Prep University.  Serving with Peace Corps around the globe with developing countries is another way RIT brings goodness to the world.  No matter what path you choose to follow, 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!