Welcome to the 2013-2014 academic year at Wilkes. My favorite time of year is the start of fall semester. The energy that our new and returning students bring to campus is a wonderful reminder of why we are here: to provide a great college experience for you. I especially look forward to talking with as many of you as possible – both formally and informally — as the year unfolds.
The start of this year is also the start of my second year as president of the University. I begin this year even more excited and enthusiastic than when I began my first year at Wilkes. During that first year, I learned what makes our University a truly unique place to work and learn – and that makes me even more excited for the year ahead.
If you’re around me for any length of time, you’ll hear me use the word “unique” quite a lot. If you’re wondering why, let me explain.
First of all, whether you are just entering Wilkes as a first-year student or are a returning upperclassmen, you have an opportunity to study at a private, four-year American university. How rare – how unique – is that opportunity? Let me explain. There are over 7 billion people on this planet. Roughly 1.2 billion of them are between the ages of 15 and 25. This fall, fewer than 5 million people from around the world are enrolled in a private, four-year American college or university. That’s just one of every 250 people more or less your age in the world. That’s less than one half of one percent! I call that a unique opportunity.
The fact that you are a student at Wilkes University makes it an even more singular opportunity. This is one of the most unique higher education institutions, not just in this region, but in the United States. Very few colleges or universities offer the broad academic program mix, from mechanical engineering to theater arts, and the range of extra-curricular activities, from football to robotics, at a school of our relatively small size of under 2,500 undergrads. I like to think of it as big research university opportunities with the culture of a small, liberal arts college. I love sharing with people that a nursing student at Wilkes can star in a theatre production and an engineering student can play football.
We’ve spent the summer preparing for your return. The most visible examples of those preparations are the new and updated facilities that greeted you when classes started on August 26. Probably the most striking is the Cohen Science Center. If you don’t have classes in this new facility, take a moment and stroll through this truly beautiful building. Please plan to join me at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4 as we dedicate it. But that’s not all that’s new. There’s an impressive new nursing simulation center in Stark Learning Center and upgraded facilities in Munson Field House. That’s just the start of what I promise will be a continuing investment in facilities that will impact every one of our academic schools and colleges before we’re done.
As this new school year begins, I urge you to take advantage of the great opportunities that are available to you because you are a student at a private, four-year University – an especially unique opportunity because you are a student at Wilkes. Take an elective class in a subject you’ve always wanted to study. Audition for that play – or try your hand at writing for The Beacon or The Manuscript. Attend a lecture, even if you aren’t sure you agree with the speaker. It’s all part of the broad experience available to you at a University. These four years at Wilkes provide an opportunity you’ll never have again.
As the ancient Greek historian, Plutarch, said: “The whole of life is but a moment of time. It is our duty, therefore, to use it, not to misuse it.” My wish for you, as a Wilkes University student, is that you will use every moment of this coming year to your advantage.
As the year progresses, please feel free to contact me if you have questions or ideas about how we can make Wilkes a better place for all of us in the University community.