On August 28, first-year and transfer students in the University of Redlands College of Arts and Sciences marched across the Quad to the sounds of bagpipe music and gathered in the Memorial Chapel for the President’s Welcome Convocation. The 738 members of the Class of 2023 represent 24 countries of citizenship; 39% are first-generation college-bound and 11% have a family legacy with the University.
Here are excerpts from President Ralph W. Kuncl’s remarks.
I have the privilege and honor of serving you as the 11th president of this great University and to welcome all of you — incoming first-year students, transfer students, parents, family members, faculty, and special guests — to this celebratory occasion in your lives and in the life of our University . . .
For many of you, it is the first time at any college, and the first time you will be living away from home. But as you prepare to live your future, it is inevitable that you look back on what has come before, and the experiences that made you. The challenge is for you to build upon what you already know but also to question previously accepted truths. If you open yourself up and listen to all that surrounds you, especially here at Redlands from your new professors and new friends, you will continue to learn . . . to thrive . . . to grow.
Maybe right now you’re sitting beside someone who will be a lifelong friend. Perhaps your heart will be captured — or broken — by someone sitting in this chapel right now. Some of you will create amazing works of art in our classrooms. Some of you will break athletic records on our fields. Many of you will find — and spark — your passions. By choosing the University of Redlands, you have already demonstrated your willingness to be part of a century-old community; one that is committed to the life of the mind as well as to the enrichment of your spirit — your emotional, social, and physical well-being . . .
If you embrace everything this institution has to offer, you will find yourself opening up to new perspectives. With your broad education — no matter what your academic focus will be — you will hone your abilities to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems. These cornerstones of learning are valuable skills, not just in your future workplace, but for a thriving, meaningful life. By the way, those are the three things that Fortune 500 companies say they want most from recruits — critical thinking, clear communications, and problem solving.
After Convocation today, you will take part in Orientation Week. This will be the time for you to navigate your new surroundings and get your bearings. You will meet your roommates and your classmates, and you will find that everyone you meet here has a different story. Take the time to discover these stories. Some of your classmates are from states or U.S. territories thousands of miles away. Some represent the first generation in their family to attend college. Others have served in our military . . . or grown up in foster care . . . or are parents themselves.
Each of you brings to Redlands different beliefs, cultures, talents, and ideologies. Within our walls, you will encounter professors, administrators, staffers, and community members who also have worldviews dissimilar to one another. Our walls aren’t intended to keep people or ideas out. Instead, in this University, we strive to come together to create a force — a community that nurtures an environment that is about learning. Exploring other people’s lives and their diverse humanity — with all the elements of strangeness, difference, and, yes, sometimes discomfort — will make studying at the University of Redlands an extraordinary experience. You go beyond what you learn from books to embrace a reflective understanding of our world and proceed from information to insight, from knowledge to meaning. I wish the nation would try out what we do here!
The University of Redlands is wholeheartedly committed to providing a positive learning, living, and work environment for everyone. By welcoming intellectually curious students of diverse backgrounds, we seek to develop responsible citizenship as part of a complete education. In your classrooms, you will learn of histories of upheaval and migration, but also of reconciliation and connection. Here at Redlands, we’re all about debating and learning to speak up, especially when the issue at hand affects our senses, our minds, and our souls. We read, learn, and discuss world events — and fully expect you to engage and participate in healthy interactions . . .
One of [Pulitzer Prize winner] Mary Oliver’s most famous poems is titled Sometimes, which has this line: “Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.” Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it!
My hope for all of you is that over your next four years here at Redlands … you will pay attention and take intellectual risks; that you will embrace your interactions with your mentors and with other students and revel in discovering what you didn’t know before; that you will delve into deeper, nuanced layers of understanding in your courses; and that you express yourselves fully, whether by studying abroad, advocating for social justice, or volunteering in our community, and share those experiences with others. “Tell about it!”
Independence may be harder than it looks, but don’t worry . . . you now have a community of Bulldogs to lean on.
To the Class of 2023 and our newest transfer students, I am eager to see you grow. I can’t wait to bear witness to your successes, and hear about the gifts you’ll share with your new home here at the University of Redlands. I know that you and your classmates will have an indelible impact on this campus. Welcome to life as a Redlands Bulldog!