Dear Students,

Aren’t you glad you are here? Under the dark clouds of the virus, to see you here is a ray of sunshine and a victory! It has not been an easy journey for you and your family. Finally, you are on this beautiful campus to begin a beautiful chapter in your life. Congratulations! We all deserve a big round of applause!

Our teachers and staff have worked very hard to get everything ready for you. This year, because of the pandemic, they have left no stone unturned to make the campus safe for learning and living. We owe them a big thank-you for this labor of love.

Today is the exciting first day of the next four years of your life. This is a good time to ask yourself a key question: what do you want to get out of your undergraduate education?

They say that “well begun is half done.” So, set your goals early. It is what successful people do. Some goals are specific to your situation. But there are goals that apply to all good students.

Some students leave university, feeling that they have failed to make the most of their college life. I hope you won’t be one of them.

This is a wonderful place for a solid education, with teachers from different cultures and corners of the world. But no matter how good our teachers and teaching, as young adults, you should take responsibility for your own education. It is a duty you owe to your family, your country, and above all, yourself, to become the best that you can be.

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From my 30 years in higher education, I can tell you that many outstanding students are guided by the following goals:

1. First, use these four years to find out what you are good at and what your passion is. Then pursue it with a single mind.

2. Second, grades are important. But even more important is training yourself to be critical and creative, for this is the age of creativity. Do you know where creativity comes from? It comes from your imagination. So energize your imagination by reading, talking to your teachers, and discussing problems with your peers and observing the world around you. In high school, you are trained to give right answers. In university, you are expected to keep asking questions. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. You can also boost your powers of imagination by taking interdisciplinary courses and getting cross-training. This is what we encourage at UIC.

3. Third, individual effort is important, but so is teamwork. Besides, doing things together is fun, and part of your social education. This brings me to the final point.

4. Finally, your college education is not a success unless you have made friends. Psychologists will tell you that having positive relationships is a key to a happy life. You are lucky that you are attending a residential college. Your dormitory is therefore your social base, and so is the classroom. The friends you make in college are your lasting social assets.

The undergraduate years are the best years of your life, when you are free to try to understand yourself and the world around you without fear. Live your life with joy, energy and curiosity. Remember, true learning is not just instructions, but an experience. So, learn by doing, test your leadership potential by joining clubs and associations.

Once again, welcome to UIC, your home for the next four years. I wish you the best time of your life, in the finest liberal arts college in the country.

Thank you.