Formally convening MIT’s Class of 2017 for the first time, President L. Rafael Reif yesterday welcomed first-year students, and their families, to the Institute.
Reif was joined in his remarks at the annual Freshman Convocation, held in Killian Court, by Krystyn Van Vliet, an associate professor of materials science and engineering; Duane Boning, the Skolkovo Foundation Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; and Julie Soriero, director of athletics and head of the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation.
Reif reassured the first-year students that they would soon come to view the Institute as home — much as he did as a new faculty member 33 years ago.
“When I first arrived here, I knew almost nobody,” the president said, in prepared remarks. “My home was a long way away, in Venezuela. I felt excited to join this amazing place — but I had plenty of worries: Would my work be good enough? Would my English be good enough? Would I fit in? … But very soon, I came to feel that MIT was my home — and that this community was like an extended family.”
Reif offered the students “sincere congratulations” for earning a place in the Class of 2017, noting that only 8.2 percent of applicants to this year’s freshman class were offered admission.
“You are all members of this incredibly strong and talented group of admitted students,” Reif said. “As talented as you are, you must have had several other options for where to attend college. I want to tell all of you today: You all made an extremely smart choice.”
In joining MIT, Reif told the students that they join a community that pursues learning not just to complete a degree, but also to make a positive impact in the world.
“The world needs students with an MIT education, one that combines the rigor of the discipline of your choice with a broad understanding of the society that you will go on to be part of and to serve,” he said. “You are joining a community that aspires to the highest standards of excellence and meritocracy; a community that always chooses to take the high road. We challenge one another to do our best — and to understand our strengths and to recognize and overcome our weaknesses.”
Reif promised the freshmen that over the next four years, they will make a transformational leap in technical skills and personal growth. And he urged the students to have confidence in themselves, adding, “We admitted you to MIT because every one of you has what it takes to succeed at MIT. … Apply yourself, take advantage of the extremely rich environment MIT offers you, and you will succeed.”
Convocation was also attended by Provost Chris Kaiser; Chancellor Eric Grimson; Dean of Undergraduate Education Dennis Freeman; Dean of Graduate Education Christine Ortiz; and Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo.
Following the ceremony — and the singing of the Institute’s anthem by the MIT Chorallaries — Reif and his wife, Chris, along with Grimson, greeted students and parents in Killian Court. Colombo then hosted a luncheon for parents at the Johnson Athletic Center as students returned to their residence halls for their own brunch.