“Take the Time to Dream”
President Brown welcomes Class of 2016 at Matriculation
Under a cloudy sky with a hint of autumn in the air, members of the BU Class of 2016 and their families filed into Agganis Arena Sunday for the annual Matriculation ceremony. Led by Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), dean of students, the procession of freshmen made their way along Commonwealth Avenue to the strains of the BU Marching Band. The festivities were marked by characteristic pomp and enthusiasm, along with sobering notes of advice from President Robert A. Brown about embarking on the greatest adventure of their lives so far with responsibility and care.
After offering a capsule of BU’s rich, inclusive, and often groundbreaking history, Brown called on the 3,900 freshmen, who hail from 86 countries, to actively shape and fortify their education by weaving in studies from a range of fields beyond their chosen majors. “Many of you…have already selected a career path and have a vision of your entry point into the professional workforce,” he said. “I am not suggesting you rethink these decisions…What I am speaking of is the rest of your college education, the classes you take that are not related to your major, and the other activities that round out your education and your years at BU.” He urged the assembled freshmen, about to begin their studies in one or more of nine colleges, to reap the most from their BU years by studying the great traditions of thought, learning to distinguish between logical and illogical arguments, becoming both scientifically and mathematically literate, and learning to write clearly and easily.
“You might have great ideas and brilliant insights, but you’ll never get them across effectively in text-message English,” said Brown, drawing laughs from the crowd. In addition, he reminded students that their education will “not be limited to the classroom or our campus,” and adjured them to explore the city and get involved in community service, pointing to BU’s long “history of engagement with the city and the world.”
Brown’s message of broadening one’s education was echoed by student speaker Dexter L. McCoy (COM’14), who talked of having immersed himself in “the very verve of BU” and encouraged freshmen to get involved, grow beyond imagined boundaries, and even on the roughest days, “get back to things that remind you that every little thing’s gonna be all right.” McCoy, the Student Government president, likened the BU experience to jazz (“the more you listen, the more you find method in the mayhem”) and reminded the assembled students that college is improvisation. “The more you grow,” he told them, “the more meaning you’ll find in the midst of the mayhem.”
Clad for the most part in shorts and T-shirts and the target of text messages and vigorous waves from their families seated above them, the freshmen heard reassuring, almost maternal words from faculty speaker Tereasa G. Brainerd, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of astronomy and department chair. Starting out at BU, especially in light of the fact that the highest achieving high school students find themselves in a newly competitive world, “is kind of like an amusement park ride,” said Brainerd. “Part of the thrill is being scared.” The hardest thing about the first semester of college is adjusting, she said, but “by the second semester you’ll feel confident and grounded.” Motioning to the robed faculty assembled on the stage around her, she advised new students to keep in mind that “your professors for the most part are people who went to college and never left…they are in love with learning.” She implored the students to ask questions–—“lots and lots of questions” and never to be afraid of appearing stupid—when, in fact, the opposite is true. “Even if there are 200 students in the class, do it,” she said. “Ask the question.”
The proceedings included one dose of reality from Brown that students might not have anticipated, with the president noting it was a topic he wished he didn’t need to discuss—the potential, as he put it, “for engaging in risky behavior, as it relates to binge drinking and underage drinking in general.” Brown did not give the subject short shrift. Along with a blunt description of the possible consequences—“pretty graphic, I know”—he offered data showing that just two drinks in an hour for women and three for men can seriously impair judgment and coordination. He advised the freshmen that drinking can and will impact their overall academic performance, and cited numbers to prove it. Brown went on to assure students that help is available, from the Office of the Dean of Students to Student Health Services to the newly established Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center.
But Brown’s final words were encouraging and inspirational, urging the new BU students to become connected with the larger University and all it has to offer and to “develop the ability to imagine, take the time to dream, and pursue your loftiest aspirations, so that your education is all that it ought to be.”
With a closing rendition of BU’s anthem, “Clarissima,” powerfully sung by Mariya Shoteva (CFA’13), the freshmen headed out to Commonwealth Avenue and lives full of challenges and possibilities.1 Comments