Friday, July 28, 2023
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
To this day, I clearly remember the anxiety of starting my college experience at LSU four decades ago. Only to be nicely surprised once I started campus life and began to discover the “world” as I never knew it before. You see, having grown up in a monolithic society, not only had I entered a “foreign” place with a foreign language and culture, but also a diverse community represented by over 100 nations. Gradually the anxiety turned into curiosity. I was no longer anxious but eager. Eager to learn about other cultures, approaches to life, to learning, to perspectives and to making new friends of all races, genders and religious beliefs.
As we celebrate the International Day of Friendship this Sunday, I think of all the lifelong friends I have made with whom I still communicate and share moments of happiness, sadness, exuberance and despair. I spoke with my freshman year roommate last week when he called to tell me that his new grandson is named after him, Robert the third! We talked about our common friends. Pedro will be visiting the U.S. from Brazil and Bob wanted us to get together when he will be in New Orleans in November.
In my position, I hear from many of our alumni who share how they made lifelong friendships from their time at S&T, through their fraternities and sororities, sports teams, design teams and clubs, to mention a few environments ripe with opportunities to make friends.
Here at S&T, during our recent sesquicentennial, we heard from 75 different couples from all eras who discovered each other during their studies at S&T. They include two international students from Brazil who first met when they came to Rolla, a couple who met on a blind date at a local restaurant, and two major university donors who first met at a party after a basketball game.
To our incoming new students and returning students alike, I say that your college years are perhaps the most immense times for personal growth regardless of if you are right out of high school or coming back to enhance your SKAs: skills, knowledge and abilities. Many new acquaintances will become and will remain your friends for life. You will meet like-minded fellow students who share your interests, those with whom you will not always agree and those who will become your role models. You will develop intellectually and personally and gain new habits of mind that will serve you for a lifetime. Perhaps more importantly, friends will help you attain better grades and make the entire educational experience more enjoyable, so when you are here, get out and make friends.
Our upcoming Opening Week is an excellent opportunity for our newest students to meet their classmates as well as the older students who will be their mentors. The upcoming MinerRama is another opportunity to meet new people with similar interests by visiting the booths and displays featuring some of our nearly 200 student organizations. There, our newest students will meet members of our design teams, club sports teams, student clubs, professional organizations and more. In the end, college provides the opportunity to come together and develop habits of mind to replace transient self-interest with lasting shared interest. The shared interest of purpose, learning and reinventing ourselves. Deep inside, all of us want to connect with and contribute to something bigger than ourselves. We want to grow, to belong and to provide critical contributions to critical challenges.
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