Friday, August 26, 2016

Alfred University welcomes Class of 2020: ‘Take advantage of every opportunity’

Photo: New Alfred University students gather to process to McLane Center for opening convocation
ALFRED, NY (Aug. 26, 2016) – Speakers at this morning’s opening convocation for new first-year and transfer students had a common theme:  Take advantage of every opportunity that Alfred University offers.
Kyle Silberstein, president of Student Senate and a member of the Class of 2018, told the students to remember three things:
First, “It’s going to be okay.” Even if they face challenges, there is always someone to help.
Second: “Alfred University is a place for growth… You will find out what you don’t love” as well as finding out their passions. Both are important, he said, and there “are few better places to do than at Alfred University.”
And, third: “Get involved.” Alfred offers a wide range of classes, programs, clubs, teams and organizations, and it’s important to take advantage of all that’s available. “It doesn’t matter how much or how little, get involved,” Silberstein advised.
Sixteen years ago, as an incoming student from East Harlem, Matt Washington, an ’04 alumnus, arrived on the AU campus, and over the years has come to regard Alfred as his “second home,” even though he returned to New York City where he is now deputy borough president for the Borough of Manhattan.
Washington joined more than 30 clubs and organizations as a student, served two terms as Student Senate president, held work-study jobs on campus, was named an outstanding senior for the class of 2004, and earned a degree as a comparative cultures major.
“Challenge yourself to do something different,” Washington advised. “Alfred provides so many opportunities… Use Alfred University as your launch pad to the future you want to create.
“I want to echo what Matt and Kyle said: Take advantage of the opportunities here,” said Alfred University President Mark Zupan.
Since taking office as AU’s 14th president on July 1, Zupan said he’s talked with many alumni, always asking their advice. The words of one, David Hetherly ’64, come to mind. David’s advice? “Don’t ring the bell.” What that refers to is the highly selective Navy Seals training program. Those who drop out of the training “ring the bell” to indicate that they cannot take it any more and want to leave.
Those individuals who successfully compete Navy Seal training – and other challenges in  life – are those with grit, noted Zupan, referring to “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” written by Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania researcher and psychologist who studies what makes people succeed.
“It’s rarely genius, or raw talent, that leads to success but rather, who is more passionate about an issue and who has the drive to excel,” Zupan said.
He urged the new Alfred student to keep in mind the motto of the 180-year-old University, Fiat Lux, meaning “Let there be light.”
As they pursue their passions and develop their capacity for perseverance at AU, he told them to remember that “diverse points of view help shape ideas” and make them stronger, just as varied pigments blend to make white light.
Light is also warming, just as the caring community of Alfred is. “Faculty and staff believe in you,” he told students.