Proud Traditions, Limitless Opportunity, and Liberal Education at Indiana University
Indiana University Auditorium
August 24, 2011
So again a warm welcome to Indiana University Class of 2015.
Whether you are the youngest freshman—at 17—or the oldest—at 49—you have chosen to improve yourselves in the most fundamental and lasting way: through an education of the highest quality.
And you are in good company on this intellectual journey. Over 4,600 of you are from right here in Indiana, representing all but one Indiana county. If you know anyone from Starke County, please talk with them about IU. You are coming from 46 different states with the largest numbers from Illinois, New York, Ohio, California, and New Jersey. And your class includes students from 36 different countries.
Over a thousand of you have parents who attended IU, and your class includes 44 sets of twins.
For many of you, then, this journey is truly a family affair. Your presence here as freshmen is testimony to the years of love and support you have received from your family and friends. Would you please join me, then, in a round of applause to thank your family and friends for everything they have done to help you reach this day?
Flashback to Spring 1978
In 1977, IU’s freshman class included 7,020 students.1 In the spring of ’78, a young man joined that class, intent on becoming a Slavic librarian with a specialty in Russian.
He designed his own major through the Individualized Major Program and took courses in biology, computer programming, film, world politics, and Japanese. He says, “Every last thing I have ever done has gone into the soup that defines me, and has provided a foundation on top of which I have accomplished things I never would have conceived of when I was just starting out in college.”
This rich and varied experience prepared IU graduate Jamie Hyneman for his future with the popular television show Mythbusters.
Of his time at IU, Jamie says, “An education will never give you all the answers you will ever need, but it can show you the importance of finding the right questions, and then wherever you go or whatever you do, the answers will be right there waiting for you.”2
A Liberal Education for a World of Change
Jamie’s experience captures the curiosity, adventure, and potential that are the hallmarks of the liberal education that you will receive at Indiana University. It is called liberal not because it has a particular political affinity but because it is wide-ranging and opens you to possibilities that you may never have otherwise imagined.
Such an education will enable you to remain flexible and creative, open to unexpected directions of thought and action. It will prepare you to work collaboratively with people from diverse backgrounds, responding with speed and knowledge to changing circumstances. It will foster wisdom, respect, and humility, which grow as we begin to measure ourselves against the most accomplished of our ancestors. It will encourage you to think analytically, synthesizing information from many different areas to generate solutions to unforeseen and challenging problems.
More than anything this is an education for life. Carry it with you, build upon it, and it will enrich your lives in countless and incalculable ways.
The era of constant change in which we live calls for precisely this kind of education.
On average, each of you will change majors around two-and-a-half times during your years here, so parents, don’t panic if your son or daughter decides to change course. For those students who don’t change, your neighbor will have to change majors five times. But those changes do not indicate indecision. Rather, they allow you to explore your interests and to find your life’s passion.
This is a world where you can expect to change careers multiple times, and those careers will take you around the world.3
This is a world in which you can blog, twitter, and text from nearly anywhere. In fact, some of you are probably texting right now.
This is the world for which Indiana University will prepare you in the coming years.
Breadth, Depth, and Tradition
Here, nearly 3,000 faculty members, all experts in widely differing areas, will guide your studies in over thirteen thousand courses being offered this semester alone.4 Our library system is one of the largest in the nation, containing over 7.8 million books in over 600 languages, and you have access to over 60,000 electronic journal titles and over 800,000 electronic books.
Over the course of the year, you can attend hundreds of lectures, over 700 varsity sporting events, over 1,100 concerts, operas, ballets, and other musical performances. And the six operas Indiana University’s top-ranked Opera and Ballet Theatre Program will stage this season is more than will be staged by opera companies in nearly any other city in this nation.
You are joining a university whose traditions date back nearly two centuries: traditions of scholarship and research, of arts and science, of business and education, and so much more. Our School of Education recently celebrated its centennial, and this fall we are celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the IU School of Social Work and the IU School of Journalism.
The Marching Hundred, one of the nation’s finest college bands, was formed in 1896. The first IU sports team was formed in 1867. And our Founders Day ceremony dates back to 1889 and takes place every spring. At it, we honor our most outstanding students, and I hope to see each one of you there.
You will become familiar with Herman B Wells, IU’s legendary 11th president who left such an indelible mark on this university and its traditions of academic freedom and international engagement. You may have seen his statue seated on a bench near the Rose Well House during one of your visits to campus.
And you will feel the great spirit of this university at annual events like the Dance Marathon, Homecoming, and let us not forget the Little 500.
This is the world you are joining this afternoon. It is a world of proud traditions and limitless opportunity that lie at the heart of the best liberal education, an education that necessarily expands well beyond classroom walls. It is a world that will require each and every one of you to bear new responsibilities as your horizons expand, and those horizons will expand.
In fact, the world of Indiana University cannot be confined to Bloomington. As President Wells was fond of saying, “[T]he campus of the university is not just in Bloomington, or even the state of Indiana, but [is], indeed, the world.”5
Let the world be your campus, and let your time at Indiana University be your gateway to a global education. Whether you major in music, marketing, or mathematics, you must develop a global consciousness in order to succeed in the increasingly competitive global marketplace.
It is never too early to think about studying abroad through one of the more than 100 study abroad programs IU offers in countries ranging from Argentina to Thailand, from Italy to India, from South Korea to South Africa.
Conclusion: Your Intellectual Journey
However far you travel, I hope you will remember this special day when you were inducted into the Indiana University Freshman Class of 2015. And remember Indiana University.
As Paul Weatherwax, an IU alumnus and faculty member, once wrote, “There are few places in the world where great laboratories, classrooms, libraries, auditoriums, and other such centers of intellectual and artistic creativity are located in an environment which retains its primeval character—few places where one may so quickly and so completely cast off the tensions and anxieties of this complex modern world in quiet meditation.”6
Remember your own moments of quiet meditation on this beautiful campus.
Remember all that you do in your years here to become a part of this university’s strong and lasting traditions of educational excellence.
Most important, remember the people you meet in the coming years for they will become your lifelong friends and mentors. Your college years may seem infinite right now, but before you realize it, you will—hopefully—be donning your robes for graduation.
The depth and breadth of your intellectual journey depend on you and the choices you make.
Today, you begin that journey.
And remember, no matter how far that journey takes you, Indiana University will always welcome you back home.
- In recent years, the record freshman enrollment numbers have been calculated based on the number of beginning or first-year students. Data systems will not allow that number to be calculated for 1977, so the number of freshmen in the text above includes all freshmen rather than just beginning students.
- E-mail correspondence. Indiana University Office of the President. 24 Aug. 2009.
- See, for instance, United States. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Number of Jobs Held, Labor Market Activity, and Earnings Growth among the Youngest Baby Boomers: Results from a Longitudinal Survey.” Press Release. 25 Aug. 2006. USDL 06-1496.
- Information provided by the IU Registrar’s Office on 22 August 2011. For fall semester there are a total of 13,400 courses being offered on the IU Bloomington campus: 11,622 are credit-bearing courses and 1,054 are non-credit-bearing courses.
- Herman Wells Stories: As Told by his Friends on his 90th Birthday. Ed. John Gallman, Rosann Greene, Jim Weigand, and Doug Wilson. Bloomington: Indiana University P, 1992. Page 9.
- Weatherwax, Paul. The Woodland Campus of Indiana University. Bloomington: IU Foundation, 1974. Page 8.