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‘You made the right choice’

The Class of 2018 is formally welcomed to Lehigh at the University Convocation.

Vibrant brass band music mingled with the excited hum of voices as the Class of 2018 filled Grace Hall for this year’s University Convocation, their formal induction into the Lehigh community.

The Sunday evening program was highlighted by comments from Interim President Kevin Clayton, who invited the Class of 2018 to join Lehigh’s long-standing tradition of excellence.
 
Clayton, who arrived on campus and assumed the presidency earlier this month, recalled his own Lehigh convocation in August 1980—and said he could relate to the students’ feelings of excitement and uncertainty.

“I speak from experience when I say that the next four years can be the best four years of your life,” said Clayton. “I speak from my heart when I say that I want each of you to succeed here and in life. You made the right choice. Lehigh made the right choice.”

John Smeaton, vice provost for student affairs, invited students into a lifelong relationship with Lehigh.

“You are now part of an extraordinary university that some of you already know and eventually all will come to appreciate,” said Smeaton.  “You will always be part of the Lehigh family.”

Smeaton noted that orientation events were intentionally designed to help students learn about available resources, understand the responsibilities of being a part of an academic community, and connect with fellow students, faculty, and staff.
 
“In partnership with the faculty, my colleagues and I are committed to providing opportunities for you to assume an active role in your growth and development,” said Smeaton. “It is my hope and expectation that, as members of the class of 2018, you will be known not only for your academic achievements, but also for the quality of your character.”
 
Smeaton presented Provost Pat Farrell with a book signed by all members of the Class of 2018, affirming their commitment to the Student Senate Statement on Academic Integrity. Welcoming the new class, Farrell emphasized Lehigh’s confidence in their skills. He also offered a challenge.
   
“We admit the students we think will be successful,” said Farrell. “[But] you do have to do some work. In fact, you have to do a lot of work.”
 
Farrell encouraged students to begin with confidence but also with the awareness that it won’t be easy.

“Hopefully you’ll embrace that challenge and you’ll look for it, and rather than trying to avoid it, you’ll say, ‘This is what I want. I want to think about things in a way that I haven’t thought about before. I want to be challenged with my ideas. I want to listen to other people’s ideas. I want to have their [ideas] challenge mine. I want to see what happens.’ That’s difficult, but that’s why you came.”
 
Farrell also invited students to leave behind the appropriately “me-focused” time of decision-making and activity that accompanies the start of college.
   
“I urge you to move beyond the thinking of ‘me’ to the thinking of ‘us’ and thinking of ‘we,’ thinking of how we do things together. That’s how Lehigh … and the world beyond Lehigh can be strong and will be strong. Now is the right time to really begin to shift your thinking to that role.”
 
Farrell then introduced Clayton, who referenced Lehigh’s increasing diversity as a positive change at the university. But Clayton also highlighted two features that haven’t changed: the devotion of faculty and staff to students and Lehigh’s core values of involvement and giving back. He challenged the Class of 2018 to live by those values and make the most of their time at Lehigh.
   
“I want you to be extremely proud that you are at Lehigh. You are our largest class ever, and judging from your applications, you are a class with immense promise. Live up to that promise.”

Keynote speaker Keith Schray, professor of chemistry, channeled the wisdom of his 42 years of teaching at Lehigh as well as added some humor to provide practical advice.
 
“I think you know that Lehigh is ready for you,” said Schray. “The question is, ‘Are you ready for Lehigh?’”

Following the resounding “yes” of the crowd, Schray’s unexpected reply prompted laughter.

“Unfortunately, you’re wrong. You are not ready for what’s coming down the pipeline. You have to work hard, but you don’t really know what that means.”
 
Schray led students through a mathematical exercise of time management, advising them to plan ahead and study during the day.
 
“If you think that you can study for seven hours a night in a freshman dorm, you are delusional. It will not happen,” said Schray.  

Schray also offered advice on study habits, discouraging students from memorizing information and urging them instead to work hard and strive for understanding, even when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
 
“Get up, keep going. Never give up. Work like crazy. Work harder than you thought you could. And when you’ve worked that hard … break it up and work a little more.”

Story by Kelly Hochbein

Posted on Monday, August 25, 2014

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