Good morning, everyone!
I see that we have a group here that is undecided or undeclared about choice of major. By definition, this means the rest of you think you know exactly what you want to do. You may have heard that, on average, U.S. college students change their majors three times. I was mentioning this fact to some of your parents, and one of them told me, “But that means the term ‘undeclared’ is not a meaningful term.” I replied, “You’re absolutely right. The term should be ‘explorer.’”
These students are exploring what they’re interested in. We are all exploring.
The question is: What are you exploring? What are we exploring with you? What is the purpose of you coming here? Is it to get knowledge? No. You don’t need to come to college to get knowledge. You can switch on a computer to get knowledge. You’re coming here to learn about yourself. To learn about who you are, what you’re good at, and what you like to do. You are exploring.
Our job—our mission as educators—is to give you opportunities to explore. So how are we, together, going to do it? Northeastern has a distinct learning model (you know what it is). We believe that in order to learn, we need to integrate classroom experience with world experience. We are a leader in experiential education. We are a leader in co-op.
In this model, we tell you: “Welcome to Northeastern! Now get out.” Go explore the world and bring your experiences back to the classroom. Challenge your classroom learning, challenge yourself, and challenge us. Through co-op, you’ll get to know what you’re good at, what you don’t like, and what you like. Co-op is a way of getting you out of your comfort zone. It puts you in a setting that is much less protected than this campus. On co-op, you will meet people who want to hear your ideas, and ones who do not want to hear them. Co-op challenges you to understand the world and to understand yourself.
The world is too interesting to ignore. Co-op puts you in the center of it.
Now, Northeastern has co-ops in 128 countries. Some of you think that you are already global. No one is fully global. We all know a portion of the world, but no one knows all of it. So when we explore your co-op opportunities, remember that we’re in 128 countries. Go to parts of the world you do not know. That’s the best way to discover yourself.
You are going to be active. We don’t give you knowledge. You are going to acquire it for yourselves, and you are going to create it. At Northeastern, you have the opportunity to shape knowledge and create it with your faculty mentors. Whether you’re studying history or psychology, English or engineering, you’re not passive recipients. You’re creating knowledge. You’re active.
As I was walking here, I wrote down some of the words I saw on your T-shirts, the ones answering, “What would you like to be?” I read: I want to be a leader, I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to be innovative, I want to be engaged. Through co-op, you’re engaged. Through research, you’re engaged. You’re in the act of creation at every step of your journey.
You also create through entrepreneurship. What is entrepreneurship? Entrepreneurship is the ability to think about the future, and to shape it. We have the only student-run accelerator program in the country. It’s called IDEA. It’s in the D’Amore-McKim School, but it is open to every student. Its purpose is to start new ventures, both for profit and non-profit. Many of our students have launched these ventures, and I have to tell you that some have been extremely successful. And some didn’t work, which is fine, too. You learn from failure as much as from success. So, yes, we want you to succeed, but it’s also okay if you don’t succeed.
Fail, fail fast, and start again. Here, you have the opportunity to make mistakes, and to learn.
Earlier, you laughed when I told you that you are not here to receive knowledge. In fact, by the time you leave here, half of what you learned will be obsolete. But you don’t know which half, otherwise we wouldn’t discuss it with you. We are your support team, and we are here to help you explore.
If you already know what you want to do—if you want to be an engineer, a history professor, a psychologist, in the health professions, in the IT professions—explore something else. In addition to your chosen field, study one that is completely different from yours. You can go for two majors, or a minor. Each field of study opens you to understanding the world in a different way. And, therefore, it opens you to understanding yourself.
Now, at times, the accomplishments of others may seem daunting. But don’t look to your right or to your left and say, “I want to be like her.” Or, “I can never be like her.” Be yourself. Don’t play it safe. We love what we see in you. You have achieved so much by the mere fact of joining the select few who are going to be pioneers and leaders, engaged and entrepreneurial.
Your journey is a journey of discovery. You are going to discover the whole world through this process. You are going to discover new fields of knowledge. You are going to shape them. SGA President Eric Tyler talked about being engaged. Be engaged here with the student government association. Be engaged with our community. And be engaged worldwide. Students, you are not in our hands. We are in yours.
Explore the world. Enjoy your journey. This university is your best platform.
Welcome to Northeastern!