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‘Find your passion,’ incoming students are told at Opening Convocation

August 27, 2010

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Before an audience of faculty, students, families, staff and Chapman University friends and supporters, President Jim Doti on Wednesday officially opened the 2010-2011 academic year and made the surprise announcement that Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel has accepted an annual appointment to the university as a distinguished presidential fellow.

President Doti said he and the administration felt strongly about making the announcement at the Opening Convocation, rather than at a press conference, “because the importance of this announcement really relates to our students.”

Students were at the heart of all the messages made by speakers at the annual ceremony, held in Harold Hutton Sports Center with the traditional processional of faculty in academic regalia led by a single bagpiper. In his opening remarks, President Doti recounted the joy of reading summer e-mails from incoming students who took up his advice and dipped into his list of recommended books and movies. Some confessed to a little nervousness. Don’t worry, he said. It’s part of the adventure.

“It’s a year to explore. … Find your passion in life. You’re going to dedicate a lifetime to it, you might as well find something that will give you the satisfaction of a lifetime,” he said.

Dean of Students Jerry Price, Ph.D., reminded students that part of their education, or what he called “your other college education” won’t come from what’s on their course schedules or in their textbooks.

“Be open-minded and open-hearted” and it will find you, Dr. Price said.

In the annual Aims of Education address, Roberta Lessor, Ph.D., professor of sociology, encouraged students to learn how to navigate the ocean of “information overload” that is today’s reality.

“Information alone does not make us smarter or wiser,” Dr. Lessor said. “Asking big questions provides us with a kind of mental algorithm to make our way.”

Also announced at the annual welcoming ceremony was the awarding of The Schweitzer Award of Excellence to Concern America, a Santa Ana-based refugee assistance program, and Schweitzer Scholarship recipients Mark Johnston ’11 and Chelsea Takahashi ’12.

This year’s freshman class is a record breaker in both size and academic standing. With 1,180 freshmen, the entering class is Chapman’s largest ever and it boasts an average 3.71 grade point average and 1850 average SAT score, both the highest ever for incoming freshmen.

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