The University of Miami’s new President, Dr. Julio Frenk, addressed the university’s incoming class of students Wednesday night in the annual President’s Welcome Address. The university’s sixth president officially assumed the role Sunday, Aug. 16. Below is a transcript of what he had to say.
“Welcome to the University of Miami. I say that to you and I say that to myself and to my family. We are here to welcome you as the newest members of this great community and I hope you are all as proud as I am to be a Miami Hurricane.
With more than 2,500 new students, first year and transfers students, we really have much to look forward to. Our horizons are indeed bright, with so many opportunities for growth and success before you. The theme for this year’s orientation is: Discover The U. I hope you will embrace the life-changing spirit of discovery and take time to discover all we have to offer you at The U and beyond.
You have joined the best university for you at an incredibly exciting moment, both in your personal lives, but also at an incredibly exciting moment in history. I am truly honored to serve as the University’s sixth president, this year, when we celebrate 90 years since the founding of the University of Miami. And we are starting our road to our second century, and you will help us define and shape what is the very best of the University of Miami, and we in turn will help you define and shape your own future, so here we have a convergence of futures; the future of this great institution in your hands, your future in our hands, together we’re going to build a great future for our university and for your own by our methods.
As our newest students, you are the dynamic factor in the real-time equation of higher education in our society. I honestly believe that universities play a crucial role, and we’re going to navigate successfully this very complex 21st century. There is an ongoing discussion about the role of universities, and I do believe universities should represent a model of the values and behaviors we want the larger society of which we are apart to embrace.
This is really very important; Universities really have a simple product, but it is a very powerful product. Our product is knowledge, and knowledge is a truly powerful force for enlightened social transformation. It is knowledge about the world that allows us to understand it, appreciate it and change it for the better. Knowledge is a common connector of human beings; it is actually what makes us distinctly human. Knowledge is a fundamental building block, the fundamental building block, of civilization. Freedom thrives with knowledge. Democracy cannot exist without knowledge. And this is what we do here, we create knowledge through research, we recreate it because in your studies you will be recreating that knowledge, not just receiving it. Then we translate that knowledge so that we can change the world to make it a better place.
Being a student at the University of Miami is about being fully engaged and immersed in this creation and recreation and application of knowledge. You will have access to many, many learning and research opportunities, both in and out of your classroom. Seize these challenges. Our extraordinary faculty is world-class experts in their fields, and they, and all of us, are here for you. You are the reason we are here. I can tell you I’ve held many jobs and many positions, but I would not like to be in any other place in the world more than here today at the University of Miami and that is because of you. Because of you and through the company of you, you rejuvenate us. You are the future of this world; so we are here for you, take advantage of that.
Knowledge is reinforced when you step outside of your comfort zone, so I encourage you to explore disciplines outside of your major, take courses in subjects you don’t know much about. Keep and open mind. You’re only going to go to college once in your life; take full advantage of that. And then learn to listen. Learn to listen to other viewpoints, to other philosophies, even if they make you uncomfortable. These are the sorts of values we want to model for the larger society: learning to listen, learning to engage, and learning to be respectful of each other.
We are truly at a critical juncture in the evolution of higher education, and I really believe that no other institution is better situated than the University of Miami to adopt and to adapt to these emerging opportunities. We’re positioned as the gateway, not only to the whole America’s, from Canada all the way to the southern tip of the hemisphere, but also eastward and westward, to embrace the entire world. This is what Miami gives us: this fantastic location as the gateway to the entire world.
Ours is an interconnected and interdependent world like never before in human history. And the pace and intensity of our daily interactions is truly unprecedented. There are new forms of connectivity that were not even imaginable five or 10 or fifteen years ago. And we have a reached a point where no country, no company, no University by itself can meet all the challenges that it is expected to meet without taking into account what happens in the rest of the world.
This means that we must educate young people who truly are global citizens, while ensuring they are grounded in the local reality. And I really don’t see any contradiction between being locally grounded, rooted in your community, and having a sense of belonging to the larger global, human community, which we are all apart of. It is the only way for understanding, because at the same time that we are interconnected and that we have this amazingly diverse University and its fantastic, I can see all of you it is the diversity that is the wealth of this University. At the same time unfortunately, we see the appearance, the emergence of ideologies and movements that would separate and divide us.
Reaching a level of global understanding is truly important. This is one of the essential goals of Universities; to foster deeper, more integrated layers of understanding between communities, both those in our backyard and those across the globe. This is a global university, and you are citizens of a dynamic global community. Every year, approximately 3,750 international students and scholars from 120 countries, representing every region of the world, study, teach and conduct research at the University of Miami.
Studying abroad is part of an enriched learning experience and I strongly encourage you to spend a summer, a semester, or a full year abroad, studying anything from architecture in Australia, to business in Japan, engineering in Chile or whatever your interest may lead you to.
I am really a strong believer in diversity, not only because it is the right thing to do from an ethical point of view, but also because it is the smart thing to do. Diversity is inherently a value that we need to promote. Diversity enriches us. The diversity of perspectives elevates the experience of everyone; it expands our outlook, and our way of analyzing, understanding and tackling problems. We need as a community to deal with a reality, there is a reality, we are different, we have differences and we have two pathways with the reality of differences. One is to embrace and celebrate diversity. The other is to go into inequality. Diversity and embracing, celebrating diversity is the way to neutralize inequality.
As a community of learning we, as I said before, must model the values and behaviors we would like to see in the larger society of which we are apart, and this is one of those great values. Our diversity, which is so obvious just looking around us, is what makes this a unique place to live and to learn. Enjoy the cultural diversity right here in South Florida, this is a vibrant community with a wealth of cultural experiences that will enhance your education and enrich your personal lives.
And this will translate into your campus lives. For most of you, our residential colleges will be your home away from home for the next few years, and for those of you commuting to campus, the Department of Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement can serve as your connection to campus life. You will soon find out there is always something to do on campus. Every day is packed with activities; late night programming as you will see tonight, movies, lectures, concerts, art exhibits and athletic events. Explore who you are as a leader, whether on a team, an executive board, or with your classmates and friends. Initiate new ideas and explore new interests. Get involved. There are more than 285 student organizations, including political and academic organizations, fraternity and sororities, sports clubs, and religious and volunteer organizations. Make each day count by making your own contribution to our world, through learning, through serving, through participating.
And stay healthy; I am a physician so I have to tell you to stay healthy. Stay active intellectually, physically and emotionally. It is the best recipe for a productive and happy college experience and we are all here for you to help you in any respect. There are many, many, many resources at the university to support your wellbeing. The Herbert Wellness Center is celebrating 20 of excellence. Use it to stay healthy and connect with other students through club sports, intramurals and other wellness opportunities.
And this of course connects directly to athletics. The Miami Hurricanes have one of the proudest traditions in intercollegiate athletics, within the NCAA. Our world class athletes compete at the highest levels and represent The U on the global stage with great distinction. Our baseball team returned to the College World Series for the twenty-fourth time in program history, capping off a year that also featured NCAA appearances in volleyball, women’s basketball, women’s tennis, golf, and individual NCAA appearances in track, diving and tennis. Track superstar Shakima Wimbley won gold and silver medals at the Pan American Games in Toronto. And women’s soccer goalie Catalina Perez represented Colombia in the Women’s World Cup this summer. We are very proud of them. Today I had the amazing opportunity of meeting with our really amazing football players. I hope you will support our teams and your fellow students by attending games at the Sun Life Stadium and on campus, and beyond being a spectator, this is a great time for you to become active in a wide range of intramural sports on our campus.
Finally in closing, I ask you to learn as much as you can about the university before classes start. Take advantage of the resources available to you. If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know. Student staffers, your orientation staff, resident assistants, first year fellows, transfer assistants, and commuter assistants, as well as the entire UM community are here to help you. Our doors are always open.
We are, on our shared pathway to creating knowledge and gaining understanding, and putting both of these at the service of our shared humanity. This is just the beginning; this is going to be a great year. Students, I look forward to seeing all of you at the President’s Picnic on Sunday. Families, thank you for entrusting us with your students. I look forward to meeting you at the President’s reception for families on Thursday afternoon. Enjoy your time here, and go Canes!”