College Day 2019
Welcome, all of you, to the College of Liberal Arts!
Starting college is one of the most exciting times of your life. It’s a time of possibility and potential, when you’re beginning a journey that will transform your life.
In fact, in your time here, you’re going to get a lot of advice, a lot of counseling. It will be good advice, but the amount of it might be overwhelming at times. So before that flood of information starts, I thought I’d give you three simple things to know to help guide you. Three things that I think will allow you to get the most out of your time here in CLA.
First: Know that you are getting the education you need to become a future-oriented leader.
An article I read recently stated, “Education is not a plane ticket. Education is not about going from point-A to point-B. Education is more like a passport,” opening up many possibilities.” In CLA, you’ll be preparing yourself not for one specific job, but for jobs that don’t yet exist and journeys you can’t yet imagine.
There’s a common myth you might have heard: that a liberal arts education is less relevant in today’s world. That a liberal arts degree will hurt your chances of getting a job. That unless you major in very specific fields, you won’t be successful with a liberal arts education.
Those statements are all untrue. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Study after study proves it.
Do you know what Facebook, Youtube, Salesforce, Alibaba, Snapchat, Paypal, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Thumbtack, and Slack all have in common? The founder, CEO, or Chief Operating Officer of each of those companies has a liberal arts background.
Think about the world today. It’s a world of constant communication and technological change. It’s a world that is struggling to deal with vastly different ideologies and belief systems. It’s a world that needs fast, flexible thinkers. Creative, innovative minds. Critical thought and productive debate. It requires exactly what the liberal arts will teach you. This knowledge and these skills aren’t only important for your career, but more generally as you engage in your communities and in civic life. And you won’t find a better training ground than right here in CLA.
Your time here in CLA will prepare you to invent the jobs of the future, as the founders of the tech firms I mentioned earlier did. And until you create those new jobs, we’ll make sure from day one that you are grounded in a set of what we call core career competencies. In your first year, you’ll take the First-Year Experience course, which will help you begin to learn to take what you learn in class and in experiences like internships, study abroad, and research and apply it to your life and career.
What you will learn in CLA is your Liberal Arts Advantage. Liberal arts have always been a foundation to live a good and satisfying life. And now, the economy and society are shifting even more in the direction where the skills and knowledge you’ll develop in CLA are even more in demand. Look up “liberal arts skills” and you’ll find articles in U.S. News and World Report, on CNN, and in many other sources that describe the liberal arts advantage and how it fulfills what many employers are looking for. A liberal arts education will give you the training you need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, to forge your own path, to become a future-oriented leader.
The second thing to keep in mind is this: you will find your place here.
I know that one of the big worries that people have coming to the U is that you’ll get lost among so many students. But what I think is special about the U and CLA is that there is such a wide array of communities and support networks that you can tap into. All you have to do is cross the Washington Avenue bridge to see the huge variety of groups and organizations represented.
From dancing to music, from research to internships to volunteering, from your interest in religion, politics, hobbies, your major, sports, and much much more, I encourage you to explore your passions and interests and find those who support your goals -- be they classmates, advisors, or professors.
The size of the U and CLA are an absolute advantage for you. The range of things to do and people to connect with is large. You might find 2 people, or 20, or 200. It doesn’t matter what the number is. You can be sure that there are people here who share your interests, your sense of humor, your study habits, your binge watching, and more. You will find your place here.
The third thing to know is you belong here.
I want you to know that whatever your political views, the presence or absence of religious beliefs, your ethnicity, race, gender identification, age, marital status, sexual preference, country of origin, or disability or veteran status, introvert or extrovert, whether your family income is low, middle, or high, and whether you hail from the city or the country or from inside or outside Minnesota … you have a place here. You have worked hard, you earned your way here, and you belong here. Let me repeat: You have worked hard, you earned your way here, and you belong here. You are talented and dedicated. That goes for each and every one of you.
I ask that you foster, among yourselves as classmates, and with your professors and staff, a culture of respect. You don’t have to always agree -- in fact, it would be extraordinarily boring if you did. Speak freely. This is a college campus and the exchange of ideas and the pursuit of knowledge is our absolute foundation. We all have to protect that foundation. Be brave enough to question ideas that you find wrongheaded. But equally important is to listen to what others are saying. To hear people out. Avoid assuming you know people’s motivations when you don’t really know either the motivations or the people. Treat others as you’d like to be treated.
Every discipline in the liberal arts focuses, in its own way, on seeing the world through the eyes of others -- writers, artists, consumers, voters, those of different times and different cultures. That’s empathy. Use that skill. CLA students are nearly half of the undergraduate students on this campus, so you carry a special responsibility to define the kind of tone, culture, and environment you and your fellow students will experience.
You can help those feeling alienated by providing welcoming spaces and friendship. And if you yourself ever feel isolated -- or like this whole college thing was a mistake -- I urge you to reach out. Seek out your advisors, your friends, or take advantage of the many support groups on campus.
Always remember: You belong here.
So those are the three things I’d like you to take away today.
First, You are getting the education you need to become a future-oriented leader. Second, You will find your place here. And third, You belong here.
Your time here in CLA will be exciting, it will help define you for the rest of your life. I hope that today is the start of a journey where you’ll discover your purpose and focus, and where you’ll find success at whatever you choose to do.
Please know you can always reach out to me. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org on email and @cla_coleman on Twitter. My hope is that for each and every one of you that your time on campus builds you up and helps you grow as an individual and community member. That you find your place and thrive.
Welcome, once again, class of 2023!