Convocation 2022

September 24, 2022

Interim President Patrick Phillips delivered the following remarks during the University of Oregon's 2022 Convocation ceremony.


Hi. I am Patrick Phillips, interim president of the University of Oregon.

Welcome Class of 2026! We have been eagerly anticipating your arrival and are thrilled you are finally here.

One of the first lessons you need to learn as Ducks is how to throw your O. It’s not a triangle, no stray pinkies. It is a nice oval, like this! So everyone – let’s see your O’s!

Excellent! You have passed your first test with flying colors.

We hold this special ceremony—Convocation—as a way to call together our campus to welcome you as new students. And to draw on the excitement that you each provide to help energize the entire university community for the coming year. It is one of the many traditions you will experience as new Ducks.

You are joining a community of scholars committed to improving our world through education, innovation, and impact.

Everyone here and across campus is dedicated to your success. That doesn’t necessarily mean just getting good grades—although that is important. Our definition of success means that you will reach your greatest potential as an individual, as a whole person.

Our goal is that you will have a positive experience at the University of Oregon, and when you graduate you will be well educated, socially responsible, and career ready.

So we all have a few insights to share, as you settle into the flock. My greatest hope for each of you is that you will look back on your experience at the UO as singularly transformational. That you imagine that you are center for a rapidly expanding universe of understanding.

So, my first piece of advice is to stretch yourself a bit.

I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and really get to know the people around you—your classmates, RAs, professors, and advisors. Take advantage of all the people here to support you, and take part in all of the programs, clubs, travel and research opportunities, and other activities we offer to connect to your new home here at the University of Oregon.

This will not only make your experience more fun, but it will help you grow as a person, an adult, and a future graduate and citizen of the world.

A secret key part of your success is the network of interactions that you build over the next few years. You will learn as much from the students sitting around you as you will from your professors, whether that’s algebra or appropriate corn hole technique. That takes intentional effort, so invest in yourself.

Stretch yourself in the classroom as well.

Some of you came to Oregon to study a particular subject or set of subjects. Knowing what you want to specialize or major in is great. But remember, you are also here to learn how to learn. The average person will have 12 different jobs over the course of a lifetime. In other words, each of you will need to become life-long learners.

So, go ahead and specialize. But be sure to take courses beyond those necessary for your first career and current interest. The world is moving so fast, we want to prepare you for careers and opportunities that don’t even exist yet. 

I’m a biologist and it’s important that you recognize that the brain does not operate by magic, it is a biological tissue that builds itself through using well-known processes, just like our muscles do. This is what learning actually is. Repetition is key. And give yourself time to allow things to settle in. Slow and steady always wins the academic race.

Being an educated human being, a critical thinker and problem solver, requires understanding the full breadth of the human experience.

My second piece of advice: if you do find yourself a little lost, inside the classroom or out, please don’t hesitate to ask for help. Ten weeks in a term goes fast!

Every professor here wants you to succeed; every advisor and student support staffer wants you to flourish. The only failure would be if you do not seek help! Again, your success lies in being your own best advocate.

My third piece of advice is to treat yourself and those around you with kindness and respect.

Take care of your own physical and mental well-being. Yes, that means not living on only coffee and getting no sleep. It means knowing your own limits.

It means stepping up—doing something or saying something—if you see a friend or classmate at risk in any way. We take care of each other. We are a community.

At the University of Oregon, we value and celebrate our many differences.

We come from all over Oregon, the US, and the world. We have unique backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. We do not all look or think alike—and we are so much better for it. We are not all the same, but we are bound by our desire to understand the world around us, and in doing so, make our mark, make a difference, and improve the human condition.

We believe in the power of collaboration. We are better together.

We value robust discussion and debate. We encourage peaceful, respectful expression of our views. Racist, sexist, or any kind of hateful speech is not welcome on campus.

Finally, let’s talk about the last essential piece to your college journey: creating impact. 

Here at the University of Oregon, you have the opportunity to make a difference in this world. You are part of a community of scholars at an outstanding research university. This means that you will be taking courses from faculty operating at the forefront of human knowledge. 

Professors here are making groundbreaking discoveries, asking profound questions, defining important issues, and creating in ways that move our world forward. They are experts who are literally writing the book in their fields of study. But they are also committed to your success as students.

This is the hallmark of a research university and we are proud of that mission. You can not only benefit from these professors, but a major reason for coming to a research university is that you can be part of this process.  

You can participate by doing undergraduate research, competing for a distinguished scholarship, performing with an ensemble or dance company, or taking part in service projects. 

You can also make an impact by working to make the world a better place. Get involved in the community. Help the underprivileged; protect the environment; engage in a political campaign.

There is a very real opportunity for you at the University of Oregon. You are on the cusp of a great adventure here - one that will bring you great knowledge, open doors, challenge you and expand your world. You will also be building some of the best memories of your lives. So enjoy it!

I look forward to us all coming together again, four years from now. I’ll be dressed like this again, and you, too, will be wearing robes. You will be ready to give your own advice to the new students and will have perfected your O and much more. 

And when I say “Go Ducks” a thousand times this year, know that I will be specifically talking about all of you gathered here today.

And now I am pleased to welcome to the podium our acting provost Janet Woodruff-Borden.