Keynote speaker Melanie Duckworth hit all the right notes Friday morning during the 13th annual New Student Ceremony at Lawlor Events Center.
"You have what it takes to achieve the goals you've set for yourselves," Duckworth, an associate professor of psychology, told the assembled members of the Class of 2016. "You have what it takes to do all that you've dreamed."
Duckworth, along with Provost Heather Hardy, Vice Provost Joe Cline, and Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN) President Huili Weinstock, were among those on hand to deliver words of advice and encouragement during the hour-long ceremony to what is expected to be a record freshman and first-year student class for the University of Nevada, Reno.
In addition to the speeches, students learned the words to the Alma Mater and, in their first formal acts as members of the University community, were administered, with candlelight providing a dramatic backdrop, the Nevada Oath.
Hardy, in her remarks, noted that "community" and "connection" were among the key aspects to becoming a successful college student over the next four years.
"You have been given the chance to make connections that go beyond your family and the friends of your youth," Hardy said. "Whether you join other students as intramural or extramural athletes, band members, members of Greek or other service organizations, disciplinary societies, or study groups, you will benefit from the multiple opportunities to make connections, work as a team toward a common good, and with luck, form lasting friendships."
Hardy remembered her own experience as a student at Rice University in Houston, where she was assigned a "triple" - a room with two other roommates. She and her roommates have since gone on to become lifetime friends who travel from their homes in Alabama, northern California and Reno to celebrate their "milestone birthdays" each July.
Little did she know, Hardy said, that "I would come away from that four-year experience with friendships that have lasted a lifetime" She added, with a smile, "And all because of overcrowding in the residence hall."
Hardy encouraged all the members of the Class of 2016 to use their university experience as a time to begin "what I hope will be a habit of lifelong civic engagement. In fact, this fall, our University is opening a new office for service learning to help you in this endeavor." In quoting Harvard professor Robert Putnam, author of the bestselling "Bowling Alone," she added, "My advice to you is to take up Putnam's challenge to 'reweave the fabric of our communities'" through civic engagement.
Throughout her remarks, Duckworth deftly included the many talents, experiences, backgrounds and aspirations of the Class of 2016. To all the "dreamers" and the "debaters" and "athletes" and the "writers of prose of poetry" and "first-generation college students" and those from military service backgrounds and many, many more, she stressed that "the many paths you have taken" had helped them all "arrive at this moment."
She said the University's wish was for the members of the Class of 2016 to "experience challenge ... and repeated mastery" of academic and social experiences over the next four years.
Duckworth added that it was important for all of the students assembled Friday morning to "stand in your truth" and to view their four-year commitment to the University "as an investment in your future and all of the interacting generations to whom you belong."
Weinstock, a senior whose own path to become the 115th president in the history of ASUN has included a personal journey from Shanghai, China, to Las Vegas and to Reno, stressed a sense of connectedness and togetherness. He told the Class of 2016 to look to the left and to the right, and to realize that the people in Lawlor "will be your classmates, your motivation, your friends in the Class of 2016."
He said that the first few weeks of the semester would be of critical importance. By becoming involved, not only in the academic life of the University but in partaking in the multitude of social offerings over the next few weeks, the students' sense of belonging and connection would be strengthened and would set them on a path of success.
"You have the chance to potentially create the kinds of memories that you will tell your grandchildren as they start college," Weinstock said.