Fall 2009 President's Convocation - Remarks by M.W. Scoggins, Steven Castillo and Zach Aman

Welcome Remarks by President M.W. Scoggins       

I am absolutely delighted to welcome the members of the Class of 2013 and their families to Colorado School of Mines. I know that this is a very exciting time in your lives, and we share in your sense of excitement. 
Convocation – which simply means a “calling together” -- is the symbolic start of a student’s academic career. It is the first opportunity for the class of 2013 to gather together as a group as you start your upcoming college experience. For parents, convocation is your opportunity to share in the excitement as your sons and daughters begin this new phase of their lives. And, it’s a chance to catch your breath after all the commotion of moving into the dorms!
I want to talk to you for a few minutes not just from the perspective of a university president, but also as the parent of three sons who have all finished their educations. 
A college education for their children represents the dream of most parents -- and that’s because the importance of a college education can’t be overstated. The statistics are well-known.  College graduates earn substantially more than non-college graduates -- and the gap between these two groups continues to grow. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 40% of the new jobs in this decade will require postsecondary education.
But in addition to these career and monetary advantages, a college education provides you with so much more. It is a unique time in your lives to learn about yourselves and to shape the personal values and beliefs that will guide you in the years ahead. You will also be further developing the leadership and citizenship skills – and the character – to become contributing members of society. 
We are delighted that you have chosen to attend Colorado School of Mines. As I’m sure you know, the School enjoys a global reputation in engineering and the applied sciences, particularly in our focus areas of Earth, Energy and Environment.
Because of our focus in engineering and applied sciences, the core curriculum, and our relatively small size, there are unique opportunities here for us to work closely together and to get to know one another better. Some of these opportunities will be structured, such as the CSM 101 Freshman success seminar, and some will be unstructured. In either case, the friendships and associations that you make here will serve you well and, in many cases, last a lifetime.
I am sure you are interested in knowing about your fellow incoming students. You’ll be spending a lot of time together over the next few years!
The Class of 2013 is made up of 983 individuals, including 885 freshmen and 96 transfer students. 67% of the class are Colorado residents; the remaining 33% are from 41 states & U.S. territories and 18 countries. 25% of the class are women and about 14% are members of a minority group. As you would expect -- academically, this is a high-achieving group. The majority graduated in the top 10% of their high school class, with an average unweighted GPA of 3.7 and a composite ACT score of 28. A very impressive group!
Members of the class of 2013, you are now the newest members of the extended Colorado School of Mines community. One hallmark of the concept of community is the way in which individuals take responsibility for each other. I encourage you to take this seriously and help each other, as we intend to help you, throughout your time at Mines. I urge you to do this not only with respect to academic matters, but also outside the classrooms and laboratories.
Four years is a very short time to build the skills and knowledge base that you will need to take on significant responsibilities in the workplace and in society.   What we ask of you is that you will work hard with us for the next four years and participate fully in the Mines community.
The work will be difficult – at times very difficult -- but I encourage you to devote yourself to it. I can promise you that you will not regret making the effort.
Forty years ago I sat where you are today as an entering freshman at another engineering school. To just date me further, you can call that the pre-PC era. Yes, that means we used slide rules to do calculations – and I imagine many of you don’t even know what a slide rule is! The few computers we did have would fill up a normal classroom and had considerably less computing power than your laptop today—and to use them we had to punch paper cards to enter our programs and data.
But, despite the differences in the technology, I think that the essence of what it takes to succeed in college has not changed much at all. So, the following advice comes from my personal experience as an ancient engineer and as the father of three sons who managed to successfully migrate through their own undergraduate programs:
  • Take full advantage of the upcoming orientation activities to get a good understanding of what’s going on, what to expect, where to turn for help, and so on.
  • Hit the ground running hard on the academic side. Don’t lose focus and let yourself get behind.   
  • Don’t wait to seek help or advice. One of the primary differences between high school and college is that you must take the initiative. Look into the various academic enrichment programs, such as the McBride Honors Program and study abroad. Consider whether you want to pursue a minor. You are the architect of your educational experience here – we are here to help you, but you are the ones driving the experience.
  • And finally -- get involved! Academics is just one, albeit high priority side of campus life. There are many activities that encompass student life that will help shape you professionally and as a human being. 
Our philosophy here at Mines is to provide a total residential campus experience, encompassing residence hall programs, athletics, recreational sports, student professional societies, internship opportunities, study abroad programs, and many more “co-curricular” activities that will add an important component to your college  experience.
I also want to point out that many of the opportunities you will experience here are made possible by the generosity of the extended Mines Community – our alumni, corporate partners and other friends --  who are contributing to the School in order to help you achieve your goals. Their contributions provide support all across campus -- helping to build facilities such as this Recreation Center and new athletic facilities along Clear Creek; providing private scholarships to offset the cost of tuition; supporting your professors and outfitting your laboratories.  
This philanthropic support of your education is just one example of the value of being part of the Colorado School of Mines extended community. Another example is the opportunity you will have to interact with the faculty on a much more direct level than would be possible at a large university. And, you will bond with the other members of the class of 2013 as you move through the core curriculum together.
It has been said that there is a special character to a Mines education.
Mines students develop problem-solving abilities, leadership skills and a strong work ethic. As such, we are internationally recognized for graduating professionals who are ready to work. Overall, our goal is to have you graduate with all the skills, knowledge and character to have successful careers, to lead lives of great fulfillment, and to make a difference for the betterment of the world.
We live in a complex world facing many difficult problems and challenges -- from large-scale natural disasters, to the need to develop new sustainable, environmentally-friendly energy sources, to the huge challenges presented by the developing world -- which has difficulty just supplying the basic necessities of life to its inhabitants. 
We believe the study of engineering and applied science is of crucial importance to the world’s future. Colorado School of Mines, with its special mission in the development of natural and human resources, has a particularly important role to play. Our graduates have an enormous capability to help improve the human condition, and they have a responsibility to do so.  And for generations Mines alumni have lived up to this challenge. Despite our relatively modest size, it is difficult to travel anywhere in the world without meeting Mines alumni and seeing the tremendous positive influence the School has had.
I am confident that you, the members of the Class of 2013, will continue to uphold – and advance - the School’s tradition of excellence.
Thank you for your attention and I wish you all the best!  
Remarks by Dr. Steven Castillo, Provost
On behalf of the Colorado School of Mines, I want to welcome each of you to campus. You are now moving into a new phase of your life. You are leaving the confines of your family, your high schools and life-long friends into an environment that will begin to prepare you to become innovators, entrepreneurs, discoverers and leaders. 
We, the baby boomers are beginning to move out of the workforce making you the future of our nation. It is amazing that only 4% of the nation’s workforce are scientists and engineers and yet so much of our society’s well-being rests on the talent, training and drive of that 4%. The nation desperately needs you to succeed here at Mines.
You have chosen a school that is known not only coast to coast for outstanding teaching and research programs, but is also recognized in many far-flung places around the globe. The ultimate reputation of an institution rests on the achievements of its graduates, and here at Mines, the graduating seniors remain in high demand because of what their predecessors have been able to accomplish.
In the coming four years, you will experience the broadest range of emotions as you work your way through a demanding curriculum. You will experience the heady joy of a project successfully executed or the award of an A in a very difficult class. However, at times you may wonder when the endless hours of study and work will come to an end when sleep is only a luxury.
Please know that we want each and every one of you to succeed. We would be overjoyed if we had 100% retention and success rates. Our world-class faculty, student life and academic affairs are here for you. It is only for you to grab what Mines is offering you and run full speed ahead with it. Work hard, persevere and you will succeed.
Remarks by Mr. Zach Aman, B.S. Chemical Engineering (2009); current graduate student
Good Afternoon. On behalf of the current and former students of the Colorado School of Mines, it is both an honor and a privilege to welcome the next generation of scientists and engineers to this celebrated community. Before I begin, I would like to ask my fellow students to offer a warm round of applause for the family members and other important people in their lives that have empowered them to be here, today.
Our intellectual forefather, Albert Einstein, once said, “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” Just as you can sit here today and recall the past four years like the blink of an eye, so too shall you stand in my position four years from now and fondly remember the Mines undergraduate experience.
The journey you embark upon today is, in many ways, similar to the maiden voyage of an aircraft. Until now, your intellectual, emotional and spiritual advisors up in the radio tower have largely determined your speed and direction. Their experience and their intuition have guided you down the tarmac.
As of today, however, as of this very second, you are now in control of the aircraft. As of today, every variable in your life – down to the clothes you put on your back – is under your command. And while your first instinct may be to play World of Warcraft instead of showering, my experience suggests that this can have an adverse effect in the social realm.
If you’re like me, you will experience a powerful sense of freedom and independence. Conversely, you will also feel the full burden of responsibility that this empowerment entails. And, as the days and weeks to come unfold, it is my hope that you begin to understand, and decide to embrace, the inherent duality in this situation. Success – in its truest sense – exists on the razor’s edge between freedom and responsibility. Just as a pilot enjoying responsibility without freedom will not soar to meet his potential, a pilot enjoying freedom without responsibility … will soon crash.
And so, as you venture from this convocation and attempt to find that balance, I would like to share with you three lessons from a slightly older flightbook.
  • First, keep your speed constant and your eyes fixed on the horizon. During your tenure at this institution, you will experience challenges unlike anything you have seen before. Bear in mind that these are designed not to create failure, but to inspire innovation and adaptability. Do not let yourself be wholly entangled by the everyday. You know what your goals are – keep them always in the back of your mind and continue to put one foot in front of the other during stressful periods.
Like many of you, I was a straight-A student in high school. Not once did I study for a test or exam and, subsequently, I never learned how to. The first Mines exam I took was Calculus 2 and I scored somewhere in the ballpark of Congress’ approval ratings. To be sure, I was devastated and took the grade as evidence of why I shouldn’t be here. But, as I continued to put one foot in front of the other and remembered what my life goals were, I began to realize that I simply had more to learn – including how to study.
  • Second, don’t forget to look at your instrument panel from time to time. As in any organic system, each of us is attuned to unique feedback systems – don’t forget to pay attention to yours. Look for those red flags in your behavior that let you know you’re swinging out of balance; they will clearly tell you when it would be advantageous to seek outside counsel.
Einstein also said that “intellectuals solve problems, [while] geniuses prevent them.” There are a tremendous number of resources available to each student on this campus. The genius of knowing when to seek the input of others does not erode our individuality, but rather emboldens our independence.
  • Third, and finally, I encourage you to be the pilot … and not the autopilot. As President Scoggins mentioned, the undergraduate experience does not exclusively revolve around academia. Rather, it is the symphony of intellectual development and social maturation that makes this journey meaningful. As you begin to explore Mines, you will find a plethora of truly magnificent individuals – each of them can contribute to the breadth and depth of your experience. Engagement beyond academia is one way in which you can contribute back to the collaborative spirit of this institution.
As a student in this intellectual community, there are phenomenal personal and professional growth opportunities available. As a few brief examples from my time as an undergraduate, you can choose to take part in undergraduate research, working alongside some of the greatest minds in this country in an effort to forward mankind’s knowledge. Or … you can choose to work with the campus newspaper, where you can hone and refine your communication abilities. Or … you can choose to join fellow students in next month’s Leadership Summit, where leaders from campus and industry will meet for a day-long dialogue on successful leadership models and management techniques.
But, at the end of the day, all of these options revolve around choice. Now that the command of the aircraft is yours and yours alone, you must choose where you would like to go. Every choice we make inexorably results in the opening and closing of unforeseen doors. In choosing to attend this institution, you have opened more doors than are atoms in a mole – and for those of you who just recited this number in your heads, welcome … to the mother ship.
But now that the decisions are yours, the question becomes: what will you choose from this day forward? Remember that systems tend to minimize their energy – so will you conform and acquiesce to the forces of the status quo? Or will you instead choose to broaden yourself in every way possible, such that you maximize your contributions to this world.
As you leave this Convocation, experiencing the first moments of complete control over your aircraft, I encourage you not to walk, but to run. Run toward the student organizations and professional associations that can offer you a network of world-class individuals. Run toward the opportunities that help mankind, for they will build your character and spirit. And run toward the academic challenges ahead – they will show you an unimaginably powerful way to look at, and interact with, the world around you.
Thank you for your time today; good luck, and God speed.
Now, I would like to ask the students in the audience to rise so that we may congratulate you on the remarkable achievement of being accepted to this institution. Today, new student orientation will continue on the intramural fields, so students should now leave their seats and follow the peer mentors through the exits behind me. Thank you.
Closing Remarks to Parents by President M.W. Scoggins
Parents, having been there ourselves, my wife Karen and I know this is an emotional time – a heady mixture of pride, excitement, and worry.
First, let me say that you should indeed be very proud of your bright and talented sons and daughters! As I’m sure you know, Colorado School of Mines has the highest admissions standards among all Colorado’s public institutions – and your students have chosen to embark on a rigorous course of study rather than take an easier path.
As parents, you should rest assured that our primary purpose here at Mines is to provide your sons and daughters with the best possible educational experience. We have some of the world’s most renowned faculty members here and we are constantly enhancing the curriculum. We are also an active campus that is complete with many social activities –from clubs and professional societies to intramural sports and Greek life.
Our facilities are state-of-the-art and the campus is growing in ways that will positively impact our students’ lives. In the past two years, we opened this beautiful Student Recreation Center and completed the addition to the Center for Technology and Learning Media. Construction plans are underway for an addition to Brown Hall and to build a new home for our Petroleum Engineering Department --Marquez Hall.
Today you are beginning a wonderful journey at Colorado School of Mines with your sons and daughters. I want to encourage you to be supportive of your student during this exciting stage of their lives. Their success here will be largely dependent on their focus, capacity for hard work, and perhaps most importantly, their initiative and their ability to move from dependence to independence. During that process, please know that they are in good hands with our tremendous faculty and staff –and that they will be receiving one of the finest educations anywhere. After all, our common goal is, in fact, their success.
I invite you to join me now for a reception in the Slate Café on the second floor of the Student Center, next door.



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