President Joel Seligman

It has been a memorable year, with highlights including new initiatives such as the School of Arts and Sciences Humanities Center and Institute for Performing Arts, the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, progress on the renovation of the Frederick Douglass Building, and the Science and Engineering Quadrangle—which will include Wegmans Hall, the new home of Goergen Institute for Data Science.

As our Meliora Challenge capital campaign nears completion well over its $1.2 billion initial goal, I am particularly delighted that we have raised close to $225 million to support student scholarships and created over 100 new endowed professorships to attract and retain outstanding faculty.

A wonderful part of this year was the progress of our students. Many were recognized last month at the Undergraduate Research Exposition or in performances in our Institute for Performing Arts or in great moments for our sports teams, such as our Men’s Squash team making it to the national championship.

All of the University faculty, administration, and staff are thrilled that a total of 1,419 undergraduates and 1,814 graduate students will receive degrees in our ceremonies May 13 to 15.

Congratulations to all the graduates. We are proud of each and every one of you.

Seligman is the University President.

Dean Paul Burgett

As we approach the end of the school year, I cannot help but muse about how far we’ve come since that first commencement in 1851. On that hot July day, a brass band led a procession of undergraduates, public officials, other civic leaders, clergy, ten graduating seniors, faculty, and University leadership—all white men, primarily New Yorkers, and mostly Baptists.

165 years later, the University will graduate 3000 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree candidates in many academic disciplines—men, women, transgender, from 50 states and 100 countries, in a diverse array of races, ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and religions. Our founders likely would be astonished and proud. Progress, at times, has been rocky and rife with challenges to diversity and inclusion, to collegiality, to equal opportunities for all. Many yet bear the bruises of struggle and carry the burdens of making progress a reality; and though the aphorism of our first president, Martin Brewer Anderson, “Our Work Is But Begun,” still applies, the University community should celebrate our successes and take pride in how far indeed we have come.

Burgett is the University Vice President, Senior Advisor to the President and University Dean.

Deans Matthew Burns and Richard Feldman

We appreciate the opportunity extended by the Campus Times to contribute a reflection on the year for its Commencement issue.

At a meeting with parents this past weekend, we heard two students describe the extraordinary combination of courses, research experiences, study abroad opportunities, and other activities in the College that had contributed to their education. Hearing them talk confirmed our fundamental thought that the College is more vibrant, more exciting, and stronger than ever.

The unique Rochester Curriculum is one of our great strengths. It forces students to identify their interests and create their paths in ways that other curricula do not. A result is a passionate and committed student body that is a great joy to work with.

This year, a faculty committee completed a review of our curriculum, now almost 20 years old, and resoundingly endorsed its structure. We regularly look for new ways to enable students to discover themselves and to develop their interests.

In the past year, we have created new majors in dance and an improved B.S. in business. A new Citation in Community Engaged Scholarship that will recognize academically-supported community engagement activities was approved last week.

Initiatives to improve opportunities for undergraduate research and internships are in development. Innovative new leaders in the Gwen M. Greene Career and Internship Center and in Education Abroad are developing new programs.

The College brings together academic and co-curricular activities in ways not seen at peer universities. This provides opportunities for us that will be realized in the renovated Frederick Douglass Building, scheduled to open in the fall. Together with Wilson Commons, this will be center of student life and it will house a state of the art dining center, improved student activities space, the Burgett Intercultural Center, and a new Language Center.

The year now drawing to a close has had its challenges: a kidnapping, a flooded residence hall, an unprecedented snow storm, and, of course, norovirus. Issues about race have been prominent. But the College’s diversity is another great strength, providing opportunities to forge connections and interactions that enrich our lives and prepare students for the world they will encounter after graduation.

We know that our campus has not achieved everything we would hope, but we also know that our students have worked with one another and with our local community in ways that make the College, and us, better.

Congratulations and best wishes to all our graduates.

Burns is the Dean of Students.

Feldman is the Dean of the College.

Chief Justice Wesline Manuelpillai

On August 27, 2012, approximately 1,150 wide-eyed freshmen gathered at the Eastman Quadrangle for Convocation. As we exchanged nervous glances and awkward introductions, I could never have imagined how formative and inspiring our time at the University would be.

As an undergraduate, I have had the privilege of learning from world-class political scientists, connecting with the University’s most successful alumni, and even dining with the President of the United States. My academics introduced me to a world of unanswered questions and helped me develop the critical thinking skills to seek out original solutions. Involvement in student groups brought me together with talented and passionate peers dedicated to improving our campus community.

My professors inspired my love of learning and took a genuine interest in my intellectual development and future success. My mentors helped me identify my strengths and gave me the confidence to seek out new challenges. And my classmates extended their friendship, celebrated successes, and offered comfort and support when I was stressed or overwhelmed.

On Sunday, approximately 1400 undergraduates will don caps and gowns and return to the Quadrangle to celebrate the bittersweet end to our time at the University. As we look to the future, I am confident that UR has prepared us for success in all of our endeavors. And as I say goodbye to my closest friends, I rest assured that this great institution will bring us together again in the years to come.  

Manuelpillai is the outgoing Chief Justice of the All-Campus Judicial Council and a member of the Class of 2016.

Tagged: Commencement

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