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Freshman Convocation, 2012

The following is the text of the speech President Michael Driscoll gave during Freshman Convocation on August 26.

Good afternoon and welcome to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. We are all very glad you are here. I’m especially pleased to be with you today during my first few months as IUP’s president. I hope you will do me the honor of allowing me to consider myself as one of you – a freshman, new to IUP.

A long time ago, I was once in your shoes—a freshman away from home and the watchful eye of my parents and free to do as I chose. Freedom—especially newfound freedom—is a wonderful thing. Using it wisely is what can separate those who succeed from those who do not. Would you allow me to offer you some advice on how to manage your newfound freedom?

Get to know your professors. Students who take a moment to do this tend to be more successful.

We want you to succeed, but we can’t help you if you don’t ask. If you reach out for help, we will respond. We want to support you, but you have to initiate contact and let us know when you need help.

How you start your new career here is important. You have the freedom not to go, but you need to go to class. Showing up is going to be a big part of your success. Blowing things off is the same as choosing not to participate. If you don’t participate, how will you get the most out of your college experience?

Don’t let distractions distract you from doing what you came to IUP to do—to learn and to grow. You’ll find many things to distract you from your academic course of study.

IUP is a reflection of our students. In essence, IUP is you and what you make of it. You shape our university’s reputation, and our university’s reputation will follow you after you graduate.

Be focused. Be informed of your responsibilities. Be involved in campus life, so that you can learn new things and test your own abilities.

Remember to do the important things first and I know you’ll also have time to have fun.

Enough advice. As you look forward into your future, let’s dream a little about what you might achieve. IUP has been graduating great students for more than 125 years. Here are a few stories of IUP graduates who were focused, informed, and involved and who became a great success.

A 1988 graduate, David Concannon was practicing law when he was approached to assist an explorer with cutting through the legalities of traveling deep into the Atlantic Ocean to find Titanic. He has since traveled six times on Titanic expeditions while serving as legal counsel to the company that owns the salvage rights to the ship. In an interview, Concannon said, “You never know when something is going to fall into your lap. My advice is ‘Don’t say, why should I do something? Just say, why not?’”

Last spring, Susan Snyder, who graduated in 1985, learned she and her team of reporters from the Philadelphia Inquirer won a Pulitzer Prize for their series on violence in the Philadelphia schools. Her first job was with a small-town newspaper in New York. When she came back to campus in May to deliver the address at the Journalism Department commencement, she credited both Pat Heilman and Randy Jesick, two of her professors. She said in her speech, “Anything is possible if you care enough, if you work very hard, and if you persist.”

When Chad Hurley was on campus in the late 1990s, he was an art major who had a passion for computers and signed up for a Math Department class that covered virtual reality modeling language. After graduating, he landed a job with a start-up company—called PayPal —and designed the company’s logo. After leaving PayPal, he and his friend wanted to find a way to share video through the Internet—and their company, YouTube, was born. Hurley has since sold YouTube to Google and is now concentrating on Delicious, the link-sharing tool he purchased from Yahoo. He said in an interview, “I always believed that if I enjoyed what I was doing, it should work out.”

So, there you have it from alumni who also once were freshmen with newfound freedom—just like you.

Work hard, stay connected, do first things first, and enjoy what you are doing. Good luck! I’ll see you around the Oak Grove.

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