Putting a ‘dent in the universe’

Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun challenged the university’s newest crop of students to step out of their comfort zone and explore the world in his remarks at the annual President’s Convocation on Tuesday morning.

“Discover the richness and diversity of the world,” Aoun told 2,800 freshmen who packed Matthews Arena. “Launch new ventures, conduct research, engage in service learning and explore yourselves.”

Aoun noted that Northeastern’s unique model of experiential education — which includes co-op, study abroad and Dialogue of Civilizations programs in 92 countries around the world — gives students a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the dynamics of global connectedness.

Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, Apple’s late co-founder, Aoun said, “You are here to put a dent in the universe, and we are here to support you in your endeavor.”

Senior international affairs major Sarah Hodsdon echoed Aoun’s message by encouraging her peers to conduct undergraduate research, participate in international experiential learning opportunities and forge unlikely collaborations with their classmates.

“The students who have taught me the most in my academic career are those outside of my field of study,” said Hodsdon, who begins a microfinance co-op in Kenya on Thursday as a Presidential Global Fellow.

“If you have a dream, you don’t have to wait for graduation to make it come true,” she added. “Northeastern has a wonderful way of enabling students to make an impact today.”

Peter Petrin, president of the Student Government Association, urged members of the new class to dive headfirst into Northeastern life. From the very first day on campus, he said, students will have an unparalleled opportunity to make lasting friendships and build leadership skills through participation in club sports, cultural organizations and honor societies.

“I’m confident that you will be the next generation of student leaders, bringing the university to new heights as world travelers, standout athletes and bold entrepreneurs,” Petrin explained. “The sky,” he added, “is the limit.”

Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, expounded upon the theme of exploration, citing the university’s focus on use-inspired research.

“You are beginning your college careers in a vibrant and comprehensive research university where you will join faculty and fellow students in addressing challenges of the world outside of our walls,” he told students. “We look forward to helping you recognize your dreams.”

Before heading to a Welcome Week barbecue, students were treated to a rousing performance by the university’s pep band and cheerleading squad, during which Athletics Director Peter Roby led a spirited “Northeastern” chant.

Prior to the festive send-off, Northeastern’s student a cappella group, The Nor’easters, performed a stirring rendition of Florence + the Machine’s “What the Water Gave Me.”

Watch the President’s Convocation video below: