Members of the Class of 2027 — On behalf of the deans, magisters, faculty, administrative leadership, staff, alumni and all members of the university community, WELCOME TO RICE! And, to our new students who are transfer students, we extend an especially warm welcome.
I’m Reginald DesRoches, president of Rice University. I’m grateful to be here with you this evening and to welcome you to Rice.
I would like to begin by saying how much I enjoyed the energy at all of the colleges this morning as you and your families were coming in. Move-in day and Matriculation are some of my favorite times at Rice. They represent new beginnings, possibilities, and hope and excitement for the future. I also know that they represent fear and uncertainty.
For the next several years, you will embark on a journey that will shape you intellectually, as a person and as a future professional. You will take classes from national and international experts in their fields. You will live in a supportive residential community with your peers. You will exchange experiences and ideas with people from diverse backgrounds and who are from places across the world. You will be involved in discussions that challenge your beliefs, while others reaffirm the beliefs that you hold near and dear to you. And, finally, you will be challenged to achieve excellence in all you do. Likely, challenged more than you have ever imagined.
In four years, or perhaps five, you will be handed a piece of paper that notes you have satisfied all of the requirements for a Rice degree. That alone will open many doors for you, and is indeed extremely valuable.
What is even more valuable will be the memories and experiences you have outside the classroom that will forever influence how you think, feel and act.
Together, your degree and the unique encounters you will have at Rice, will position you to TRANSFORM LIVES.
Speaking from experience
Nearly 40 years ago, I set foot on the same journey that you are starting today when I left New York City to attend school at the University of California, Berkeley.
The education I received inside and outside the classroom changed my life. The lectures I attended, the organizations I participated in and the many discussions I had with people from different backgrounds pushed me in ways I never dreamed.
Neither of my parents had a college education but they understood and prized the value of education and sacrificed greatly to give their children the opportunity to earn a college degree. My parents grew up in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and came to the US as adults, having to learn the language and work double shifts to provide me and my siblings with the opportunity to get an education.
The education I received from Berkeley and the community I formed as a student got me to where I am today. Along the way, I have had the honor of traveling to over 35 countries to give lectures on earthquakes. I have had the opportunity to work with and teach scores of incredibly talented students much like yourself.
I have had the opportunity to assist my country of birth following a devastating earthquake in 2010. An earthquake that saw more than 250,000 people perish.
I have had the opportunity to hold leadership roles at two incredible institutions, and now I have the honor to lead one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the world.
I have no doubt that you too will have a world of opportunities available to you and believe Rice is the right place for you to build a strong foundation.
Class of 2027
In addition to being an outstanding research university with a distinctive commitment to graduate and undergraduate education, Rice is home to a special community and inclusive culture dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion and excellence. The breadth of support students get here is unique and is one of the university’s greatest strengths.
Matriculation is a perfect example of the individual attention you will get at Rice. Walking through the Sallyport signifies much more than beginning your studies, it represents becoming part of a larger community — the Rice community.
When my daughter, Shelby, matriculated, four years ago, she said it was one of the most memorable and meaningful experiences of her life. She said it set the right tone for her years as a student, as a member of the Rice soccer team, and as a member of Sid Richardson College.
Her experience was much different from when I started undergraduate school at Berkeley more than three decades ago. No one marked the occasion but my parents, who drove me to the airport and told me to find a phone both to call them when I made it safely. I suspect none of you know what a phone booth is.
My first class at Berkeley, CHEM 1, had 1,200 students, in a huge auditorium. I was also part of the look to you right, look to your left generation where it was expected that one in three people won’t make it through their first year. That was when universities took pride in weeding out students. I was indeed very intimidated. I know your experience at Rice will be different. We take pride in your success and expect every one of you to graduate and thrive.
Your class, like every other class that has entered the university since 1912, is special. The class of 2027 is 1,140 new Owls strong and represents less than 8% of the 31,056 of the people who applied to the university. You represent the most selective class in Rice’s history.
Your class has no single ethnic or racial majority — 32% of you are from underrepresented minority groups and another 13% are international students, representing 53 states and territories, and more than 47 countries.
While we are proud to have a community that is reflective of the diversity of Houston, the most diverse city in the country, we are equally proud of the environment of inclusion that we have created at Rice. Our differences are not just tolerated, they are celebrated as a core strength of our institution.
World of opportunity
You arrive during a time in history that is both challenging and inspiring. The nation and the world are in many ways the most sophisticated and complex they have ever been, with some of the most pressing global challenges from climate change to poverty and social inequality, to crime and violence plaguing many cities, and cybersecurity and health disparities. At the same time, emerging tools, technologies and social awareness are providing unprecedented opportunities to solve some of these obstacles.
As a student at Rice, you will be at the forefront of addressing these problems and you will have the opportunity to work closely with your professors to address them. You will receive a well rounded education that combines the sciences and technology with the humanities and the arts. You will be exposed to the complexities facing society and equipped with the knowledge, critical thinking skills, and empathy (which is perhaps the most important skill needed) to solve them.
I know that somewhere within this room are scholars who will be part of creating disruptive technologies and inspiring innovations that will change the world; or a Pulitzer prize writer that will inspire generations to come.
To help guide you along your educational journey at Rice is the university’s residential college system which build’s close connections and lifelong friendships. These communities support students intellectually, emotionally and culturally through social events, intramural sports, student plays, lectures series, courses and student government.
Central to who we are as a university is supporting each other, and we do that through our values. Becoming a member of the Rice community means, first and foremost, participating in and supporting those values of Rice, which are reflected in the letters that spell RICE. Here they are:
R - Responsibility — Take responsibility for making things better, including Rice, for making a contribution, and for creating opportunities for yourself and others.
I - Integrity – Everything we do here, from academics to athletics, from how we treat each other to our contributions to the community around us, is done with the guiding principle of what is right, of what is honorable.
C - Community – Community is the way we support and treat each other with respect.
And, E - Excellence – Excellence is what we strive for in everything we do at Rice. It’s what pushes us to strive beyond our limitations and it’s what allows us to accomplish things we never imagined possible.
In addition to our values, we have guiding principles at Rice. These are courage, curiosity, culture of care and diversity, equity and inclusion.
These values and guiding principles are two of the main reasons why we were so effective at continuing to deliver on our educational mission.
In closing, I will leave you with a quote from Nelson Mandela, who so eloquently spoke about the value of education, he said….. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
During your time at Rice, you will be equipped with the tools to do just what Nelson Mandela said — change the world.
All of us at Rice are thrilled you are here and are excited to embark upon this transformative journey with you.
I want to thank each and every one of you for being a part of this incredible day. May our journey ahead be filled with success, happiness, and fulfillment.