Sunday, August 23, 2009

Welcome to The University of Iowa!

The beginning of a new academic year always brings us together as a united University community. When the students return to campus, we know that we are embarking on another year fulfilling our primary mission—educating students and pursuing the discovery of knowledge. While we are a big place, we find common purpose in our dedication to each other and to our educational mission. We are all part of the Hawkeye family. This convocation celebrates that family solidarity and welcomes you, our wonderful new students, into our midst.

The beginning of a new academic year also reminds us that autumn will soon be here. Today’s convocation marks the transition of seasons when we put away our summer beach towels and take out our books. We recalibrate our mindset from fun in the sun to the excitement of learning. We put away the tank tops and take our Hawkeye sweatshirts out of the closet.

As we transition from summer to autumn, the leaves on the trees will start turning color. This happens because they stop producing green chlorophyll in preparation for winter. We begin to see the lovely reds, oranges, yellows, and purples reveal themselves—colors that have been in those leaves all along.

The student experience is much like the changing of the leaves in autumn. Your summer colors fall away and your autumn colors, the colors of education, emerge. As new University students, you will be discovering for the first time some of those colors that have been lying within you all along, and some that will be new to you in your vibrant new life at The University of Iowa.

What are those colors that you will see emerge from within you this fall?

First, you will blaze forth with the beautiful reds of autumn. Red is the color of passion. If college is about anything, it’s about discovering your passions. If you know what your major is, you will find yourself pursuing that love like you never have before. As you explore new ideas in your General Education classes, you may discover new intellectual passions that you never knew existed. With the wealth of opportunities here at the University, I urge you to seek out new experiences and discover your passion for things beyond the classroom—for the arts, for athletics, for service, for leadership, or for any other area of experience that you will find across this vibrant and diverse campus and community. I can’t wait to see those fiery reds set you onto the path of higher learning and personal success.

While the fall leaves will lose their green, I hope to see that color show itself in you in the months to come. You may have heard about our Sustainable University Initiative. Sustainability is one of the most important issues of our time. Our commitment to creating a cleaner, more responsible, and more beautiful world just grows stronger at the UI. We are working hard at developing our environmental stewardship through green building, energy conservation, and recycling. But we’re also working hard at infusing your educational experience with sustainable thinking. Our new sustainability certificate that begins this fall is only one of the ways that we are greening the curriculum. I encourage you to consider this important and exciting academic option. But over your years here at the UI, I also urge you to see how these issues are addressed in many of your classes and extracurricular activities. I really hope to see you all “go green”—in your daily habits and in your academic pursuits.

Of course, there’s one more pair of colors that is very important and will really shine brightly in you very quickly—the black and gold! In a lot of ways, that’s what today’s convocation is all about—initiating you into the black and gold, and letting you know what those colors mean. In the coming weeks, Iowa City will turn black and gold all over as the leaves reveal their autumn rainbows. Many of you will become part of that sea of black and gold on football Saturdays, at the Homecoming parade, and at the first basketball games in Carver Hawkeye Arena.

That Hawkeye spirit is very important to your Iowa experience and to feeling part of the UI family. But of course the black and gold is about a lot more than cheering on your favorite team. Being a Hawkeye also carries with it that passion for learning and service that I mentioned earlier. Being a Hawkeye carries with it the principles of honor and responsibility. Being a Hawkeye carries with it the expectation of respect for self, for others, and for community.

The black and gold means a lot of things, and we’ll see those colors emerge from you in the coming weeks and months as you become, more and more, true Hawkeyes. And that’s also why we’re here today—to start you off on your path as an Iowa Hawkeye rightly, and to help you start understanding what that means.

We welcome you into the Hawkeye family with open arms, open hearts, and open minds. This is one of the most exciting times of your life—embarking on your college career. We are honored that you chose to have that experience here with us. And we will do all we can to help you make those true Hawkeye colors shine forth brilliantly.