President Karl Scholz's delivered the following remarks at New Student Convocation on Sept. 24, 2023, at Matt Knight Arena:
Hello, Ducks! I am President Karl Scholz, and it is awesome to be here.
Like you, I’m new to the University of Oregon, so we are on a journey of discovery together. I arrived 85 days ago (but who’s counting), and I am so excited to be here. And let’s talk about excitement. Was anybody at Autzen stadium yesterday? How great was that? And shoutouts to men’s and women’s cross-country teams, who are off to a great start. And we set an attendance record right here, when the Oregon Ducks women’s volleyball team swept the Beavers Friday night. Ducks are flying high. But today I want to talk about something different.
I would like to talk with you about three concepts that will be essential to your life as university students and Ducks.
They are achievement, curiosity, and impact.
Let me start with achievement. You have achieved scholastically your whole lives. Your hard work and accomplishments have led to you being here – one of the great public research universities in the country. And please be clear – UO is a great public research university. There are more than 2,500 four-year colleges and universities in the country, and we are ranked among the top 100. Put differently, we are in the top 4 percent of colleges and universities nationwide.
You earned your place here at the University of Oregon. We do not admit anyone who we do not believe will be successful. And we are grateful you are here.
You and your classmates make up the second-largest class in the history of the university. You are among the most diverse and high-achieving classes ever. You come from every state in the nation and more than 25 countries.
Being bright and capable, and at an outstanding university are all important, but you are all also learning how to be college students. Many of you may be living away from your families for the first time.
You will need to figure out how to use your meal points, where your classes are located, where to do laundry and how to get along with roommates, who may be very different from you.
I am a father of three daughters, all of whom my wife, Melissa, and I accompanied as they went off to college.
I’ll be honest, as a parent this was rough. I cried at each drop off. At the same time, I knew our daughters were embarking on a period of tremendous intellectual and personal growth. I don’t care how awesome your high school was – you will be exposed to all sorts of new ideas, new people and new experiences at the U of O. You will grow tremendously, and your loved ones will be both in your corner and very, very proud of you.
Connecting with your fellow classmates, your resident advisors, your professors and your roommates will help you find your place as well.
If you do find yourself behind, don’t wait to get help. We are on a quarter system, so the timetable for classwork, midterms and final exams is compressed compared to the systems many of you experienced in high school or community college.
Every professor here wants you to succeed; every advisor, counselor and resident advisor wants you to flourish. Seek out resources that are here to help you out, whether your professors, TAs, advisors, people in student life, folks in health services. There’s a university here to support you.
And let’s get real. There will be times college is hard. It’s almost guaranteed. It may come in a class that isn’t going well. A problem with a friend. Loneliness. Not knowing what’s ahead. This is normal. Some of the most profound learning occurs when you are honest with friends, or instructors, or advisors or others. It takes courage to reach out when things aren’t going so well. But take that step. Be authentic. Don’t pose. And don’t believe what others are saying on social media!
Achievement also means graduating from the UO in four years for our first-year students. Doing so will save you time and money. I can’t wait to see you in Autzen, in June 2027. That requires you to take at least 45 credits per year, 15 credits each term! Just do it!
I next want to talk about curiosity.
Many of you came to Oregon to study a particular subject or set of subjects. Knowing what you want to specialize in or major in is great. But remember, you are also here to learn how to learn in order to adapt to the changing world and to live happy, fulfilling lives. The process of learning and learning how to think critically will be vital to you throughout your lives. So, go ahead and specialize if you think you know what you want to do. But if you don’t, that’s okay as well. One of the values of the many varied courses you’ll be required to take is that it will help you discover and refine your interests, as well as prepare you well beyond your first career.
You are also here to learn about people different from you and places different from where you have come from. This is part of your preparation to become leaders, contributors, and successful members of society. We are all part of a world community, and the diversity of our community helps to enrich both your education and your perspectives. At the U of O, we embrace diversity, equity and inclusion. We seek to create a community where everyone – students, staff and faculty – feels a deep sense of belonging.
I encourage you to seek out people and experiences unlike those you’ve had before. Join student organizations, participate in ASUO, volunteer, do an internship – what you do outside of the classroom will help you in your careers, lives, and in your relationship with others.
If all of us can find places, both inside and outside the classroom, where we feel “this is my place, I belong here,” we provide the psychological foundations for an even more important aspiration – a campus where all can flourish. Flourishing may mean different things to different people, but to me, it is a campus where all can reach their full potential. We want each of you to flourish.
But let me warn you: this is hard work. We have to engage constructively, for example, with disagreement. Over the next four years we will have speakers on campus that some find reprehensible. There will be people who express ideas that you might feel are profoundly misguided. But we are a setting where ideas are protected. We will do everything we can to debate ideas, particularly those we think are misguided, with logic, debate and possibly protest. But we will not censor ideas.
On a flourishing campus, we must look out for each other and treat each other with respect and caring. Challenges are out there: alcohol, drugs, sexual violence and harassment. Know that we have resources, such as our Division of Student Life, to help yourself or a friend. Ducks take care of each other.
Finally, let’s talk about the final essential piece to your college career: impact.
On your four-year journey at the University of Oregon, you have the opportunity to make an incredible impact. You are part of a community of scholars at an outstanding research university. This means that you will be taking courses from people who are creating knowledge, making discoveries, and producing art, music and design.
The professors here are focused on providing a world-class education to you, create enriching experiences, and guiding you on your journeys to make a good living and lead a good life.
We strive for excellence, supporting curiosity-driven research that expands the boundaries of knowledge and understanding of what it means to be human.
We are also agents of change, catalyzing impact and solutions to help our communities and world. We are drivers of ideas, innovation, and prosperity.
This is the hallmark of a research university, and we are proud of that mission. And you all have an opportunity to not only benefit from these professors, but you can also participate in this impact by doing undergraduate research, by getting to know your professors — go to office hours — and by making the most of this experience so you, too, can create impact when you graduate.
You can also make an impact by working to make the world a better place. That may take many forms, but you have an opportunity to be involved, make your mark, speak up, dig deep and participate in a vibrant world of opportunity here at the University of Oregon.
Before I close, I want to say a word to the parents and families out there, because I know you’re out there — if you were like me, lurking about before saying goodbye — Thank you for all that you have done to help your student get to this amazing milestone!
Encourage your students to connect with others and take advantage of resources. They are listening, even if it may not always seem like it.
Finally, be there for your loved one – but let go!
OK – back to our new Ducks! School is starting soon. So let me give you your first test. Don’t worry, this one may be the easiest test you’ll have. I, too, had to pass it when I arrived.
You have to show me you know how to throw you O!
So, let’s practice. Make an O like this. It isn’t a triangle.
Let me see your O’s!
At the same time, you have to yell – Go Ducks.
Ok – let’s try that all together.
You’ve passed your first test with flying colors. Green and yellow colors, of course.
We are so excited that you are here. You will achieve, you will be curious, and you will make an impact during your time here.
As someone who is also new to the university, I am incredibly honored to be going on this journey together.
The next time we will all meet all together will be in Autzen Stadium, in June 2027. I’ll be dressed in similar attire, and you too will be wearing robes. You will be ready to give your own advice to freshmen, as ASUO President Chloe Webster did so well today, and so much more.
You will be ready to enter the world — ready to make your impact. Ready to “throw your O” far and wide.
Have a wonderful first day of college. And GO DUCKS!