For those of us in higher education, the start of a new academic year represents a far more significant transition than the one that takes place when the calendar turns from December 31 to January 1.
Unlike the largely symbolic value of a new calendar year, the new academic year marks a bona fide fresh start for our campus community. That’s particularly true for our University at Buffalo students, arriving on campus each August with a different schedule to adjust to, fresh courses to tackle and new fields of knowledge to master in pursuit of their dreams.
It is a time of great anticipation—anticipation of discovery, inside and outside the classroom, and of growth, intellectual and personal.
That anticipation is no more pronounced than during our annual Welcome Weekend. A longstanding UB tradition, Welcome Weekend, as many of you know, offers new students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with our campus and to get to know others who, like them, are setting forth on their educational journey at UB.
The students I become acquainted with during Welcome Weekend hail from across New York State, from around the country and from points all over the globe. They come to our campus straight out of high school, from other institutions as transfer or graduate students, or as nontraditional students, perhaps pursuing a postsecondary degree after spending time in the workforce or studying part-time while raising a family.
Although they have taken very different paths to UB, all the students I meet have something in common: a bond of shared excitement for the experiences and possibilities that lie ahead.
This past May, during our commencement season, as I had the pleasure of addressing the members of the Class of 2017—now the newest members of our UB alumni community—that same sense of excitement was palpable. The nerves that often accompany the beginning of an academic journey had long since vanished; in their place, the pride and fulfillment of having worked hard for, and having achieved, one’s goal.
Thought of one way, Welcome Weekend and commencement bookend the UB experience. At one end, there is the promise of what a UB education provides you: rich, relevant, experiential instruction, hands-on opportunities to enhance your understanding of your discipline and dedicated mentoring from faculty renowned in their fields.
At the other end, there is the prospect of how you will use your UB education: to deepen your understanding of your field by taking your studies to the next level, to launch the career you’d envisioned for yourself, to engage meaningfully with the world around you, to lead locally and globally.
In between the bookends, our UB staff, faculty and administrators are diligently preparing our students for this, their most promising future. Every year, as Welcome Weekend fades from view, as the seasons change and we progress toward the celebratory milestone of commencement, we remain committed to ensuring that our students—our soon-to-be alumni—seize every opportunity to realize their true potential, at UB and beyond.