Dartmouth's 2012 Convocation Exercises - Address by President Carol L. Folt

Uploaded by Dartmouth on 13.09.2012

>>Carol L. Folt: Welcome everyone.
Welcome to Dartmouth.
To our new students, with your energy and your dreams.
To our new -- our upperclassman who are with us today.
To our faculty, our staff, our distinguished guests, and our friends.
Could you believe it's actually 243 years since our founding?
Well, here we are today to celebrate, another new beginning in our never-ending story.
To the members of the class 2016, congratulations on earning your seat,
but please don't get used to sitting down.
You've come here to stand up for what you believe in, and you've come here to learn how
to think critically, how to grow beyond what you've imagined.
And then you've come here to share the fruits of all that learning with a wider world.
To our new graduate students, thank our enriching our community of scholars.
In the eyes of the faculty, you're our partners, and we look forward
to working and learning from you.
To our convocation speaker, award winning filmmaker,
Ricki Stern, class of '87, welcome home.
I heard, Ricki, that you decided the best way to leave your own unique footprint at Dartmouth,
was to walk barefoot on the green, is that true?
>>Ricki: Yeah.
>>Carol: I first met Ricki when Dartmouth honored her for the Social Justice Award
for ongoing commitment in 2009, and as you heard in her documentary, she tells of vivid
and compelling stories of people who persevere.
This weekend, she'll be back again for our year of the arts festivities and celebration
of the new black family arts center.
So we're so delighted to have Ricki with us today.
In a report a few years ago by Booz Allen, a prominent international consulting firm,
Dartmouth was listed as one of two universities,
described as one of the worlds most enduring institutions.
Now if that's true, it's because with every passing year,
the Dartmouth circle has grown much wider and more inclusive.
At convocation 40 years ago, then President John Kennedy, welcomed Dartmouth's incoming class
for the first time with the words, "Men and women of Dartmouth."
Of course, we take coeducation for granted today, and as I look out now
on the most diverse class in Dartmouth's history, I'm also proud to say
that this is the 40th anniversary year for our Native American studies programs
and our Black Alumni at Dartmouth Association.
Dartmouth has so many proud traditions, but class of 2016,
you're not here to fulfill past legacies, you've come to create your own.
And so I want to invite you to begin that journey reflecting
on a deceptively simple question.
Why come here?
Now, I feel deeply that this is an amazing and exciting time in the history
of our planet and the history of humanity.
And of course, these years in college will be very exciting for you.
But, by coming here, you will have a chance to develop your capacity to succeed in the world,
and you might even influence the course of the contemporary history.
You're coming here in an age when information travels globally as fast as a website reloads.
It's a time where knowledge is increasing expedientially.
I began studying biology just after the first sequencing of a little chunk of D N A. Now,
the entire human genome has been sequenced over 3 billion base pairs of DNA.
And we're deep into far more challenging questions of figuring
out how this molecular machinery works as a blueprint
in functioning of our bodies and minds.
Over the new four years for you, your education will be much more
than just a stimulating this exploding information world
or even building social networks and friendships.
If you were satisfied with learning what's already been known,
you might as well just hang out in a dorm anywhere.
Online lectures, iPads, Kindles with Wikipedia, social media.
By coming to 21st century Dartmouth, you'll have every opportunity to take advantage
of creative an disruptive forces of new technology
and explore the exploding knowledge in all disciplines.
But even more, by becoming an active participant here, and as quickly as you can,
becoming a stimulus for other people, you can grow and learn even more.
And I hope, and I think my faculty colleagues agree with me,
I hope all of you will engage in research here.
That you'll learn to create knowledge, create art, even in your first year.
If you want to best prepare for your place
in the information-rich globally connected world you inherit,
you have to meet the future right here at Dartmouth, now.
As a life scientist and educator, I want to take a few minutes talking about something
that I'm finding particularly exciting right now and that's about the new discoveries
about our learning brain, and how our growing understanding of our essence
as social beings is impact in the way we think about learning.
We have big brains, and these big brains have been developed and fine tuned over thousands
of years in an intensely social environment.
We've learned to understand that perhaps even the greatest evolutionary challenges,
the challenges that actually give rise
to our extraordinary intelligence were challenges we created ourselves.
The challenges of living, working surviving, competing, collaborating and succeeding
in the company of other smart people.
It's actually by working together over many,
many generations that humans have created the knowledge from which new tools technologies,
awesome power, and sometimes forces that we have yet to understand emerged.
Also the great masterpieces created by the human mind
and hand have not been produced in a vacuum.
These have arisen and actually only have meaning in a cultural context.
They're built upon interactions, upon sharing of ideas philosophies, science,
technology, humanities and the arts.
Although, we all may sometimes like to think
that as individuals we're succeeding on our own steam.
No, all of our creations and our legacies are fundamentally collaborative.
Now given what we're learning about the origins of human intelligence, again,
it's not surprising that the most effective learning experiences are active.
They're challenging and their collaborative.
We know we're you live, who you meet, can be what you learn.
However much you take away from a written text, your going to take away
so much more from a social context.
We learn from our surroundings without even trying.
Though on behalf of our faculty, I strongly recommend that you do try, especially on finals.
But, I think as we learn more about these processes that are shaping our brains
into these awesome cognitive tools, we're finding that the brain is
such a masterful instrument for learning, because it continues to grow and change.
It's not fixed with birth.
It grows and changes, not only when we're kids, but over our entire lifetime.
And we're discovering more and more about what kinds
of stimuli drive that development in our brains.
Now, again, of course honesty compels me to say
that brain imagines studies have also confirmed what your parents have always feared,
your brains really are on autopilot a lot of the time.
But, that's probably why it makes me excited that my colleagues are learning
about new discoveries to create more effective learning experiences,
and they will actually help take your brains out of autopilot
and helping you reach your potential.
You can use this knowledge about what stimulates your learning, to make your life in
and out of the classroom more coherent and creative.
You're going to learn lots of disciplinary knowledge.
It's deep, but it's also siloed and fragmented.
When you go out into the world, you find complex problems are rarely solved
by any one discipline or any one perspective.
We know that your generation is going to need skills that are going
to weed those disciplinary threads into interdisciplinary solutions,
if you're going to tackle questions to keep our fast changing globally interconnected systems
as stable, healthy, sustainable trajectories.
When you think about this quest for coherence or resilience in global systems,
in many ways it reflects the same quest that you've heard others talk about,
which is a quest for coherence and integration
in your Dartmouth experience that can make it richer.
We, in the faculty and administration,
understand very well how important your social experiences.
The drive to engage with friends is at the core of our nature as social beings.
And of course, it's at the route of powerful forces at work in our bodies and our minds.
So, what about coherency and integration?
Can you by being here learn to bring your social experiences together
with your learning experiences?
To bring together your classes with your other activities, your spiritual beliefs,
your learning experiences abroad?
It's not easy to do that.
But many Dartmouth graduates have stayed in touch after they graduated have told me that,
yes, that did happen for them at Dartmouth.
But it took effort and thought.
But it was the best investment for those who did it that they made
in their lives and was the greatest reward.
They found different paths that make that integration work.
But each one of them said that the integration grew by intentionally,
thoughtfully, getting off of autopilot.
Getting out of group think, and intentionally working
to respect new connections embrace new relationships, test each idea they questioned
and each uncertainty that they embraced.
And they found these integrations were core to their capacity here.
They learned not what to think from other people, but how to think for themselves.
For them, when everything fit together, they said they found unexpected,
incredibly deep reserves of energy and confidence, and ultimately they realized
that they built a foundation for something deeper.
Something that some of them even began to call wisdom.
Now, when I look out on the green from the president's office where I had
such a wonderful day yesterday, welcoming each of the 16 personally at matriculation, you know,
I see a beautiful environment that invites learning, it invites reflection.
It's filled with excitement, it's filled with buzz.
You know, I see students, I see faculty and staff crisscrossing
on their daily paths to and from classes.
Their going to the hop, their going to the new DAC they're going to cafeterias and the gym.
Each of them carrying individual preoccupations, each heading somewhere with a purpose.
But each carrying unique histories and dreams.
At the same time the intersections that bring you together.
You can look out and you can see those points where the paths meet.
And it's at those points where you'll embrace confrontation, however uncomfortable,
and from which you'll learn empathy and humility.
How class of 2016 you learn to interact together,
is going to determine how far you go as individuals.
As you build respectful learning connections across our community,
your going to strengthen our community.
Just as your brains are growing by forming new connections, your going to learn
by building bonds with people from different backgrounds, different disciplines
and with different points of view.
You'll will be able to make yourself wiser and then you'll make the campus more vibrant
and then you'll graduate prepared to make the world more prosperous,
more just and more hopeful.
Women and men of Dartmouth, this is the promise of your college that you entered today.
It's a promise that members of that first brave class of woman fulfilled with incredible grace.
It's the promise that thousands of graduates, including Rickie Stern,
have fulfilled through the lives of service,
feats of innovation, and moments of great courage.
And it's a promise that isn't just your legacy, it's your responsibility to keep.
As I look around the room today, I don't have any doubt that you will do so.
More than just retaining facts by being here you're going to create new knowledge.
More than just celebrating the accomplishments of the past 40 years, by being here,
your going to set your sights on the next 40 years.
More than visitors passing through campus, you'll be members of the community.
The green will be your classroom.
The people in this room and beyond will be your collaborators,
and Dartmouth will indeed bear your mark.
So, from this day forward, you will always be students and graduates of Dartmouth.
And it's my great honor to welcome you.
Thank you.