Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to welcome you to Q Day and the beginning of another school year. This is a wonderful time for the Queens College community. We have just opened up the Summit, our first residence hall, and this adds a bright new spirit to the campus, it gives us a more lived in and friendly feeling. This is also a great time for us as our enrollment is higher than it has been in years, and more and more new students who are coming to the college are among the top students in the city. So much good is happening at the college that I suspect that this is going to be the best year of my presidency.
Every now and then a college goes through a process of self-evaluation in which it looks at itself and tries to communicate to the world what kind of institution it is. We recently went through such a process, spending countless hours talking to faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community leaders about what they think of the college and what they feel this college should be.
Following this self-evaluation, we came up with what we refer to as the Queens College creed. Our creed consists of six brief statements that let you know what you can expect from us, and also what we at the college expect of ourselves. Our creed is our pledge to you that you will receive the finest education anywhere. And what is this creed? Our creed says that when you come to Queens College, you will:
Enter a world of exploration and discovery.
Experience diversity, and it will inspire you.
Join an institution of high standards and higher ambitions.
Learn from the best, immersed in the brightest city.
Embrace opportunity and broaden your views.
And finally, you will find your own path through exceptional education.
Now, what do all these statements add up to? For the most part, they mean that Queens College will change you. Indeed, coming to Queens College and expecting not to be changed is like jumping into the ocean and expecting not to get wet.
At the Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony last May, Jason Abramowitz spoke about how he had changed from the time he was a freshman. He said: “to be completely honest, when I started here at Queens College I was very narrow-minded. Those who knew me back then knew that I had one main goal—to get into medical school. I figured I would get here, take the bare-minimum three writing units so I could devote the rest of my time to the sciences. Well, seven writing units and a humanities minor later, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve grown a lot. In only one year at Queens College, my attitude had completely changed and my mind had opened to things I would never have previously considered.” I’m sure that many of you have had an experience much like Jason’s, and if you haven’t, I bet that you will by the time you graduate.
Our creed is also saying that you can find the world at Queens College. All branches of knowledge are represented on our campus and we are continually adding new majors to keep up with the demands of the global workplace. In fact, we recently revised our whole curriculum, and the class of 2013 will be the first to reap the benefits of this.
The world is here at Queens College too in that we have students and faculty from over 140 countries, as well as research centers and institutes that examine the rich heritage of Asians, Jews, Greeks, Italians, and other ethnic groups. You will meet so many extraordinary people. To cite just one example: Aniqa Islam, who graduated last spring, was born in Bangladesh and received her early schooling in Germany and South Africa, where she met Nelson Mandela. She flourished at Queens College as an honors student. Aniqa had many Afghan friends who were worried about their country, so she decided to organize a conference on the future of Afghanistan, and that conference received international media coverage. That is a remarkable achievement for an undergraduate, and you will no doubt meet many remarkable students like Aniqa during your years at the college.
The world is here at Queens College as we have a study abroad program and research opportunities that can send you to scores of countries. Indeed, just last fall Andreas Balbas spent two months in an unheated tent at the South Pole, studying climate change. But don’t worry: if the South Pole is too cold for you, you can choose a warmer climate to study in. For instance, Biology Professor Stephane Boissinot recently took a number of students to Africa to help him track the wanderings of the baboon population. There is nothing like travel to sharpen your mind. As Joanne Giarrusso noted about her recent trip to Turkey, a trip that helped her decide to become an archaeologist, “No book could reproduce the knowledge that I have gained from this experience.” So make sure you take advantage of the world of research and travel opportunities we offer, and also take a look at the more than 100 clubs and sports teams you can join here.
The world is also here at Queens College because we are located in New York City, the world’s most extraordinary city, and I invite you to visit all of it, and especially Queens, which is our nation’s most diverse county.
And of course where there is diversity, there is usually conflict. This is why we work so hard to bring together people from different ethnic and religious groups in an attempt to broaden their views and defuse this conflict. Our Common Chords concerts have highlighted the similarities in the traditions of Jews and Muslims, and our Clash of Civilizations program has asked students to walk in the shoes of those they traditionally thought of as the enemy.
You already know that Queens College is a college of high standards as you had to meet those standards to be here today. Indeed, we have raised our admissions requirements almost every year since I have been president. And as we have such high standards for you, we know that you deserve nothing less than to study with one of the nation’s finest faculty, and I assure you that you do that every day at Queens College.
We hire professors who are dedicated to both classroom teaching and research. More than half of our faculty were hired in the last seven years after proving themselves at institutions such as Yale, Harvard, MIT, and Princeton. The City University of New York has recognized the excellence of our faculty by naming 11 of them Distinguished Professors, the highest honor it can bestow. And these are not professors from just one or two departments; they are spread across the college in disciplines as diverse as English, physics, urban studies, biology, economics, and environmental studies. Our faculty have also won countless prestigious awards such as Guggenheims and Fulbrights, and they attract millions of dollars for research projects every year. In short, there is no better faculty you can study with.
And just as we expect much of you, we expect much of ourselves. Two years ago we developed an ambitious strategic plan in which we challenged ourselves to become one of the world’s great colleges by the time of our centennial in 2037. Now 2037 no doubt seems far off to you, but this goal we have set for ourselves is something that we work toward every day at the college in the faculty we hire, the programs we develop in emerging fields, the buildings we plan, and the research we do.
And what does this mean for you? This means that the value of your degree will continue to appreciate over the years as Queens College’s reputation grows. When you compete for a place in graduate school or medical school or go for a job interview, the fact that you received your degree from Queens College is sure to get you noticed.
And that pretty much sums up what our creed is saying. It is our pledge that if you take advantage of all the Queens College has to offer, you will receive an extraordinary, life-changing education. Thank you.