Today, I had the pleasure of attending the 2012 Convocation Ceremony signaling the start of a new academic year at the University of Vermont. I was happy to watch the class of 2016, all 2400+ students become new members of a 221 year old institution of learning. President-Elect Tom Sullivan and Board of Trustees Vice Chair Harry Chen offered some words of advice to the freshman class and the UVM community. Chen reminded the audience that whatever happened in our past is done and that we should stop trying to predict how we will do in the future, based on previous performance. He said, we have the opportunity to start-over with a clean slate and re-invent ourselves and encouraged us to remove the limits we place on ourselves.
I thought it was advice I needed to hear, sometime I have a tendency to forget that I should stop trying to place limits on myself and continue to embrace new challenges and continually keep learning new things and re-inventing myself. For these reasons I’ve certainly found over the years I enjoy being on a University campus because I like environments that allow the free exchange of ideas.
President Sullivan’s advice focused on using what we learning inside and outside the classroom to become better problem solvers and critical thinkers. He challenged us to question our assumptions, open ourselves to new ideas, and embrace people who are different from us. One of the reasons I became an engineer is because I like challenging assumptions and working on new out of the plane ideas. Unfortunately, I’ve found in my own engineering career that some engineers prefer to accept the status quo rather than question their own assumptions or the assumptions of their peers. I think this does a great disservice to the profession the moment we start accept things for what they are, is when we stop progressing. Embracing people who are different from you is very important even in an engineering context, perhaps certain solutions work for you, but those solutions may not work for other members of society. This is why we need to take culture into account when devise and implement new solutions.
Tomorrow, a new semester at UVM begins, another semester to learn something new and work on becoming a better problem solver and critical thinker. I look forward to accepting a new set of challenges.