The University of Tulsa welcomed 754 new students to campus on Aug. 13 – the fourth largest incoming class in TU history – and kicked off orientation week with a traditional matriculation ceremony for freshmen and their families.
“My hope is that your class helps set the standard for American college campuses in how we take care of ourselves, take care of each other and the commitment to step in when things are about to go wrong,” said TU President Gerard P. Clancy, M.D. His challenge to students was part of a message that focused on the importance of remaining actively committed to mutual success and on the unfolding of our lives as stories that we are constantly writing together.
“You aren’t here by accident; you have chosen to be here. Each of you is committing time, effort, money and emotional energy to this experience. So right from the start, I hope you recognize that everyone here at TU has an enormous stake in your success,” Clancy said.
Clancy, who assumed the role of president in November, described the four-point commitment that TU has recently developed as part of its strategic planning for the next five years. The commitment is that students will feel accepted and valued, will be actively engaged in seeking learning opportunities both in and outside the classroom, will be empowered to apply their talents to make a difference in the world and will experience ongoing self-discovery at TU.
Four other speakers took turns explaining how these pillars shaped their time at TU: Camden Schinnerer, a Spanish/biochemistry senior; Jack Wood, a sociology senior; Maria Nadeem (BS ’17); and Kyla Sloan (BS ’17), a speech pathology graduate student. The program also featured a video of Kirk Smith (BS ’17), who turned his TU experience into a Rhodes Scholarship – one of only 32 awarded to U.S. scholars this year.
If we want to be free to focus on our commitments, we have to guard against a set of problems plaguing campuses today, Clancy said, turning the conversation toward sobering topics. “Alongside creativity, innovation and life-changing discoveries, today’s college campuses too often provide examples of selfishness, recklessness and stupidity,” he said. “I am talking about cases involving sexual assault, binge drinking, alcohol abuse, racist acts and hate postings on social media towards a specific group of our community. As a psychiatrist, I saw all too often the consequences of this type of recklessness on the victims. It’s very personal to me, and I am passionate about making our campus a model” of how to tackle these problems.
Clancy urged students to “strengthen our campus culture of inclusion, respect and safety at all times, where every student owns these responsibilities so that every student has the opportunity to write the very best story for their life.”