On August 29, 2018, President Monaco delivered the following address to the Class of 2022 on the occasion of their matriculation. The Class of 2022 includes 1,544 undergraduate students representing 45 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and 49 countries around the globe.
Thank you, Debbie, for that kind introduction.
I would like to extend a warm welcome to the parents and families here today to help our new students begin this next phase of their education and growth. And students, I know that some of your families are not able to join us this afternoon, but we send them warm wishes as new members of the Tufts community.
Class of 2022: This is an exciting moment—and one that you have worked tremendously hard to reach. You are on the threshold of an amazing journey—one that will help you to develop intellectually, socially, and personally, just as it has done for so many Jumbos before you.
You are following in the footsteps of generations of accomplished Tufts students. They have left their mark on the world. But first, Tufts made its mark on them. Now it’s your turn.
I know that as you prepare to begin the next chapter of your lives, your minds are full of questions like, “Am I ready for this? Did I make the right decision to come here? What classes should I be taking? Does everyone else already know each other? Will I make friends?”
Let me assure you of this: everything you’re feeling is normal. The combination of doubt and anticipation that you’re experiencing right now has been felt by every single Jumbo who has sat here before you.
In many ways, this moment is common ground between you, because those feelings of anxiety and excitement are also being experienced by every one of your classmates—even if they’re trying hard not to show it. This is a shared experience, and no matter how different you may be from one another, you all have that in common.
I’d like to assure you of something else, too. Whether you believe it or not, you are ready for this challenge. How do I know? Because we chose you—and we didn’t make a mistake.
Rest assured, we were deeply impressed by your resumes and transcripts. But they are not really why we chose you. We chose each of you because we saw in you the curious minds, compassionate hearts, and commitment to action that we prize in our students and alumni. We saw the qualities that bring life into this campus, and light into this world. That’s why you’re here. That’s why we chose you.
And we intend to give you an education that harnesses those qualities, expands your horizons, and prepares you for the challenges of today and tomorrow. And, I believe that’s why you chose Tufts. Your class not only set record numbers for applications, it has also the highest yield we’ve seen – meaning students who made Tufts their first choice. And just under half of the engineers in your Class are women—a statistic that makes us especially proud.
We believe that an undergraduate education should give you skills that will allow you to be an active and effective participant in life after graduation. That’s why we challenge you to hone your ability to listen carefully, to think critically, and to write clearly. That’s why we push you to examine the assumptions that underlie your beliefs, and to learn how to explain why you believe what you believe—to others, and to yourself.
The liberal arts will be integral to the Tufts experience for all of you—even engineers. They will allow you to navigate diversity of background, thought, and perspective. They will equip you to sort good arguments from bad ones, and separate fact from fiction.
At the same time, quantitative skills and an understanding of scientific reasoning will also be essential for all of you. We live in a world increasingly shaped by the use of big data, and our era’s most pressing challenges require us to engage with technology, the environment, and economics.
Here at Tufts, you have leading professors who are eager to impart their knowledge and guide your learning. It will never be easier to discover a new discipline or to try new ways of understanding the world than it will be during the next four years. I urge you to take full advantage of that opportunity.
That will mean stepping outside your comfort zone. So here’s some advice: each semester, try to take at least one class in a subject that you’re curious about but haven’t really examined before.
Ask questions, and acknowledge when you don’t have all the answers. As a scientist, I can tell you that being wrong can be the most efficient way to learn something you didn’t know—and you often learn more from being wrong than you do from being right.
Get to know your fellow students. The relationships you form with them will enrich your experience and expand your horizons. In fact, going outside your comfort zone is an essential part of your Tufts education.
Of course, this is not always easy. We want you to develop the skills to grapple with challenging ideas, and engage in informed and civil discussion and debate on issues on which you may disagree profoundly. Opportunities for you to engage in dialogue with each other across varying perspectives start this week, and will be present throughout your time at Tufts.
In addition to encountering new ideas, as students you will also often find yourself in new and unfamiliar circumstances. You will be asked to make choices that affect the kind of experience you have and the direction of your life in the future. You won’t always know what to do.
If and when that happens, please remember: you are not alone. Tufts is a good, caring place, full of helpful, thoughtful people who are committed to ensuring that you get everything you can out of your experience. Here at Tufts, seeking out support is recognized as a sign of strength and self-awareness.
You will also find at Tufts a community that cultivates active citizens. The Tisch College of Civic Life is an incredible resource for you to get involved with civic and political engagement in communities close to campus and around the world. I encourage you to register to vote through Tisch College’s Jumbo Vote initiative and cast your ballot in the upcoming midterm elections.
Now, one thing to keep in mind is that we aren’t just preparing you to be good citizens of the world. We’re expecting you to be good citizens of Tufts University, too.
While Tufts will always be there to support you and to offer advice, you are responsible for your own conduct—how you treat others, and how you treat yourself. That means being considerate of our neighbors in Medford, Somerville, and the Fenway. It means being responsible about drinking, and respectful and consensual in your personal relationships. And it means setting your own boundaries and limits even when nobody is there to set them for you.
And speaking of boundaries, I want to say a word to your parents and families:
Thank you for everything that you have done to bring our new students to this moment. Your support and your sacrifices have been essential to everything that our new students have achieved so far, and will be the foundation for everything that they accomplish during their time here. Now I have to ask you to do something equally challenging: let them go.
I don’t make that request lightly. I’m a parent myself, with two sons in college. You will be tempted, over the next four years, to stay as close to your children as you have for the last eighteen. But the ability to make their own decisions and have their own experiences—good and bad—will be one of the most important things that students gain from being here, and supporting them and giving them space to do that is one of the best gifts that you can offer.
And, Class of 2022—make your families’ job easier by staying in touch. Remember that they’re going through a transition, too, with less support and fewer peers than you have. Give them a call tonight, just to check in. And if they want to cry when they leave you today, let them. They’ve earned it.
Now, in four years, we will come together again at your Baccalaureate service. And the following day you will become members of our worldwide alumni community, which is shaped by the enduring bonds of friendship and shared experience.
I know that graduation sounds far away right now, but I assure you, it will arrive faster than you think. And when that day comes, I hope you will look back in awe at everything you’ve accomplished.
And I hope that all of you will also remember how today feels. I hope you will remember a sense of excitement; a sense of wonder; a sense of infinite possibilities stretching out before you. I hope that you will cherish that feeling, and keep it with you—not just during your time at Tufts, but every day. You are at the start of an extraordinary adventure.
So congratulations, once more. And welcome to Tufts.