On Monday, August 27, the University of Pennsylvania’s Class of 2022 Convocation was held under the summer sky in Blanche Levy Park in front of College Hall. President Amy Gutmann accepted the baton—symbolizing the Class of 2022—from Dean of Admissions Eric Furda. Below are President Gutmann’s remarks to the more than 2,600 incoming students, including freshmen and transfers.
Don’t Just Meet Destiny, Make It
President Amy Gutmann
Members of the Class of 2022: You have arrived!
Transfer Students: Good call!
You come from 49 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and 88 countries around the world.
So let’s hear what that sounds like in action. On the count of three, together, I want you to shout out your state or country of origin. One, two, three!
I don’t think I heard everyone. Let’s try it one more time all together. One, two, three! Good!
I welcome you all to the Penn family. You are a truly unique Class.
Never before in Penn’s history have so many first-year students been born at the turn of the millennium. We will not see a similiar Class for another thousand years. You are truly one-in-a-millennium.
My challenge to you is to mark this historic occasion with a momentous calling. Consider another historic occasion 82 years ago when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Penn’s campus. He addressed a roaring crowd on Franklin Field. “This generation,” he famously declared, “has a rendezvous with destiny.”
Your Class has an even greater calling. We call upon you not just to meet destiny, but to make destiny.
Members of your Class have already begun. After Parkland, you said #NeverAgain and Marched for Your Lives to end school shootings. You formed political action groups for educational reform in Paraguay. You built coalitions here in Philly to improve access to clean drinking water and nutritious food.
Many of you will vote for the first time in the midterm election this fall. The importance of you doing so is impossible to exaggerate. It will be a milestone moment when your generation speaks more powerfully than it has ever done before.
All these engagements underscore my message to you tonight: To truly make destiny, to effect change for the better, no one person goes it alone. We each pursue our own dreams, but we make destiny only together.
Mark this as why we’re gathered here tonight: At Penn, everything we do to make our future better, we do together.
Here’s a historic case in point: A century ago, Dr. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was a brand-new Penn student, fresh out of high school. She earned all her degrees at Penn, becoming one of the first two African-American women in the United States to earn a doctorate.
She found her passion in the law, becoming the first African-American woman to earn a Penn Law degree and the first to be named Assistant City Solicitor for Philadelphia.
In 1946, President Harry Truman appointed her to the nation’s Committee on Civil Rights, which successfully urged Truman to fight against employment discrimination.
Like all of you, Dr. Alexander was clearly a leader, a pioneer who pursued her own destiny no matter the obstacles. “I never looked for anybody to hold the door open for me,” she said. “I knew well that the only way I could get that door open was to knock it down: because I knocked all of them down.”
Dr. Alexander’s story also reveals that making destiny—even for pioneers—is never a solitary pursuit.
Many people at a university, in a city, on a civil rights committee mobilized. Dr. Alexander’s spirit lives on in one of our own, the pathbreaking scholar and teacher Dorothy Roberts, who is the Sadie Alexander Professor of Civil Rights in Penn Law and a Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor in Law and Arts and Sciences. She leads the Penn Program on Race, Science, and Sociology. Dorothy’s with us tonight–let’s hear it for her.
Dr. Alexander’s legacy extends to all of us here tonight who prize inclusion and innovation, and to thousands more.
The youngest pursue bright destinies just a few blocks west of here, at a transformative public school named in Dr. Alexander’s honor, created in partnership by Penn, the School District and the teachers’ union.
The stellar achievements of Penn Alexander School students earned the school the highest National Blue Ribbon honor. And I am thrilled to report that two of your classmates are proud Penn Alexander graduates: Jenaye Johnson and Jana Pugsley—let’s hear it for them.
That’s the best part of making destiny: when you knock down doors, you open them for others.
Each year, a diverse group of Penn seniors win the President’s Engagement and Innovation Prizes.
These prizes are open to all graduating seniors. The best proposals receive major funding for year-long post-graduation projects. They are supported from start to finish by caring Penn faculty mentors and staff.
One winning project is called Lanzando Líderes, Launching Leaders. When I first read the team’s proposal, it brought tears of joy to my eyes.
Launching Leaders promotes educational success for immigrant and first-gen Latino students in our South Philadelphia community. Last year, the Penn team—Yaneli Arizmendi Estrada, Alexa Salas and Camilo Toro—one Nursing and two College graduates—mentored dozens of young leaders, helping to prepare them for college.
They found, as you will find, that when you open those doors, the light shines in for so many others. Launching Leaders is empowering immigrant families to make their own destinies.
Yours is a generation—and this is the class—that will bust open so many doors. At Penn, you join us in making destiny, together.
To help you on your way, we believe your momentous calling and your historic Class require special recognition.
Since you are one-in-a-millennium, let’s make it official, have some fun, and bestow a special title upon your Class.
It just so happens I have authority as president to do so, but I still need your help. I’m going to offer three choices of Class title. After I do, I want you to talk to the people around you. Figure out which title you like best.
I will then call on you as a Class to cheer for your favorite. The longest, loudest cheer wins, so build support for your choice fast. OK, here we go.
Your first choice for official Class title is: Destiny Makers.
Your second choice is: Twenty-Two Together.
Your third and final choice for Class title is the most solemn; it’s timeless; and it’s in no way a reference to Drake’s #1 Billboard-topping song or the viral Internet craze it inspired…. That said, for your final choice, get in your feelings: it’s Class Kiki.
I’ll say them one more time.
Destiny Makers. Twenty-Two Together. Or Class Kiki.
Everybody got it? I’ll be coming down to see how you’re doing, then I’ll call the vote. OK? Everybody, go!
[Dr. Gutmann interacts with students and returns to stage.]
Alright! The time has come to choose. I will say each title one at a time. If that’s your choice, cheer! The loudest cheer will win. So let’s hear it for:
OK, how about Twenty-Two Together.
Finally, what about Class Kiki.
I believe we have a winner! By the power vested in me, and by your own acclaim, I hereby declare you Twenty-Two Together!
May it grace your hashtags, inspire your actions and adorn your T-shirts at Spring Fling.
Tonight’s ceremony embodies what lies ahead. We will work together, we will discover together, we will have fun together. But most of all, here with the best living and learning community you will find anywhere, we will make destiny together.
And what an exciting time it’s going to be!
Welcome to Penn!
Grow Your Purpose at Penn
Provost Wendell Pritchett
As Provost—Penn’s Chief Academic Officer—it’s my great pleasure to welcome you this evening.
It’s been said—and it’s probably true—that there are just two occasions in your four years at Penn that you will all gather together as a class. The first is tonight. The second will be in May—of 2022, when you graduate. (I assume that’s already in your calendars.)
The reason we don’t all gather is not because we don’t have a space big enough. OK, actually, it sort of is. But that’s not the real reason. The reason is that, while each of you is passionate about something, it is not the same thing. You won’t all be in the same lecture hall, attending the same performance or cheering the same football game. You were chosen to be a member of this great Class precisely because you have varied interests, skills and backgrounds.
What I want to talk about tonight—and yes, since I have you all here, let’s just go ahead and call it advice—may seem counterintuitive. I’m not going to stand up here and tell you to only pursue your passion at Penn: to look within, discover what you love to do and then focus on that. Instead, I’m going to ask—or, you know, advise—that you embrace a growth mindset.
A growth mindset posits that we are all continual learners, and the journey is as important as the goal. A growth mindset asks that you not focus on one specific thing but that you embrace new and different things while you’re here. Because that is why you are here. Not to be laser-focused on one subject, class, or grade, but to be broadly educated. To take in the forest and the trees.
The always-quotable Mark Twain said, “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born—and the day you find out why.” My hope for you is that, in this, Penn’s Year of Why, you will take significant steps in your journey—it will be life-long—to answer that question.
Now, please don’t take this advice the wrong way. I really don’t want to hear from your parents that you emailed them saying “Provost Pritchett just told me I don’t need to be pre-med!” That’s not what I’m saying. By all means, college is a time to pursue your interests and the field or subject you find meaningful. But a growth mindset will allow you to learn about advances in other fields, advances that—in our interdisciplinary world—will be helpful to yours.
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck pioneered the notion of the growth mindset. She is co-author of a new study of undergraduates—one that, I admit, recently popped up in my news feed. This research has discovered that true passion—strong commitment—does not spring from us fully formed: it develops, over time, by being open-minded, by exploring new things and by encountering challenges that need to be overcome.
Let me focus on those things for a moment, because they are both important and relevant to your time at Penn. Let’s talk about those challenges. We are going through a difficult period in human history, a time when intolerance is on the rise. No place, and no campus, is immune. You will grapple with people and ideas you find disagreeable, even objectionable. At Penn, we strive to give everyone a voice: open expression is a cornerstone of academic freedom, and freedom in general, and inclusion is a core value of our community.
There is, of course, a natural tension between being inclusive and promoting open expression. People here are, well, passionate in their opinions. Even people with a growth mindset.
You will certainly be challenged—and possibly annoyed—by ideas you encounter here. That is part of the discovery process. There are all sorts of trees in this forest. Being open minded and willing to listen will help you articulate your own views and your own vision with nuance and clarity and a sense of purpose. You will also be challenged to think, and to learn, in new ways. The work may prove difficult. But let me give you one more piece of advice.
You got this. You got this!
You would not be here if we weren’t confident you will succeed. Success, of course, is rarely a straight line. And I encourage you to approach success with a growth mindset as well: it is more than a 4.0 or an undefeated season. It is friendships and relationships; it is being engaged and involved in groups and activities; it’s making it to the top of the rock climbing wall. And it’s getting a B—or even a B minus—in a class you never even imagined you might take.
In short, it is not just about pursuing your passion. It is about growing your purpose: cultivating meaning in all the varied opportunities you will have here and then doing what brings you joy.
And finally, since I started with Twain, let me quote him again: “The secret to getting ahead—is getting started.”
Members of the Class of 2022: let’s begin.
From the President, Provost and VPUL: Welcoming Input on Wellness at Penn
A Message to the Penn Community,
We hope that all of you enjoyed a wonderful summer break and found many occasions to relax, recharge and spend meaningful time with friends and family. As we head back into this new academic year, we aim to nurture that same sense of balance in our work and play at Penn, as we experience the daily opportunities and challenges of life on campus.
Last year, as many of you know, we created a Wellness at Penn initiative designed to reaffirm our strong shared commitment to the values of wellbeing. Through this initiative, we have heard and been moved by so many stories of your struggles and triumphs. It is more important than ever for all of us to stop, take time and care for each other across the Penn community. This community of caring means that wellness must not leave behind any member of our community, and we must all be open and empathetic about our shared setbacks and growth.
We also continue to think about—and welcome your input on—how best to combine our goals for a community that fosters academic and personal accomplishment with our goals for a community that fosters community through respect, caring and personal fulfillment. We begin by understanding wellness as a holistic, multi-dimensional process, in which intellectual wellness is intertwined with emotional, social, spiritual, physical and other essential forms of personal wellness. Ideally, and with your collective help, we will continue to forge a path that makes Penn a national leader not just in achieving intellectual eminence but also in transforming campus wellness.
Along these lines, we want to update you on our progress in advancing wellness at Penn. First and foremost, we have completed the appointment of the University’s—and the Ivy League’s—first Chief Wellness Officer. Dr. Benoit Dubé, associate professor of clinical psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine, is a highly experienced wellness leader who has been a member of the Penn community for more than 20 years, including as director of wellness initiatives and assistant dean for diversity and inclusion at PSOM.
Dr. Dubé is moving quickly to establish our new Division of Student Wellness Services, which will bring together CAPS, Campus Health, the Student Health Service, and the Offices of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives and Penn Violence Prevention. This integrated unit will aim to create faster access to care, for more students, across a wider range of options. He is leading our national search for a chief operating officer of Student Wellness Services, who will work closely with him and other senior leaders to ensure that we continue to provide the most outstanding and efficient wellness resources.
We are also conducting a national search for a new executive director of CAPS. This leader will oversee the next generation of enhancements to CAPS that emerged from last year’s operational review. These advancements, as we first wrote in April, will increase capacity; decrease the time between a first consultation and a first counseling appointment; better distinguish short-term care, long-term care, and other kinds of wellness care; and expand the availability of phone, video, texting and app-based technologies that can be accessed anywhere, at any time, to support students in crisis. We have already started implementing these changes, making it easier for students to schedule appointments, walk in to CAPS, or talk to a clinician on the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As the semester moves forward, we encourage all students and faculty to participate in the Take Your Professor (or Mentor or TA) to Lunch Program, which provides free lunches or dinners between students and their professors, mentors, and/or teaching assistants. Last semester, as part of our wellness initiative, we made this program much easier to use, and we were heartened to see the huge number of people who took advantage of it. This is one of the best ways to strengthen our bonds as a community and to build a bridge between our academic and social lives.
The Chief Wellness Officer, together with the Vice Provost for University Life and our outstanding student-led health and wellness organizations, will soon begin a series of ongoing wellness messages and activities. In the meantime, we welcome your ideas and suggestions to advance wellness at Penn, which can be sent from the home page of the Wellness at Penn website, https://www.wellnessatpenn.com/ Thank you as ever for your partnership in sustaining a healthy and supportive community across every part of our campus.
—Amy Gutmann, President
—Wendell Pritchett, Provost
—Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, Vice Provost for University Life