August 27, 2013

DaubmanGood evening.  First I would like to welcome back the faculty and staff and extend a warm welcome to all of our new colleagues. I am sure, like me, you are eager to begin a new semester, so full of promise and possibilities.

On behalf of the faculty, I want to welcome all of the transfer students, graduate students and the class of 2017. We are glad you are here.

I imagine that you are excited to begin your classes, and perhaps a little nervous. You can be sure that faculty will challenge you with interesting questions and problems that will require you to think deeply and to work hard. I know you are up for the challenge.

Perhaps the hardest but most important task that you face is how to spend your time, and the answer to that question should be shaped by an understanding of why you’re here. So why are you here? What is the value that can be gained from a Bucknell education? What does it mean to get an education? I have a quote on my bulletin board from Wendell Berry that I particularly like. To paraphrase him, becoming educated enables us to put our lives in order; it enables us to discern what is important and to create lives lived fully and responsibly.

Over the summer, first-year students and many faculty and staff read Hamlet’s Blackberry, a contemplation on how to create deep, meaningful experiences in the digital age with all of its demands on our attention. The book stresses the importance of finding time to reflect; that time alone to process your experiences is necessary to discern what is important and to live more fully and responsibly. The book reminds us that flitting from one online task to the next, or one activity to the next without time for reflection is a fool’s game. It beseeches us to slow down so that we may go deep.

Faculty talk a lot about our desire for students to be engaged fully in the life of the mind. We don’t mean just completing the assignments we give, although we do mean that. Engagement in a scholastic life means finding time to really chew over a play you are reading in your theatre class so as to be inspired to write one of your own – just for fun and maybe to perform with your friends. Being an engaged student means finding a quiet place to sit with a classmate or hall mate to talk about a lecture you both attended.

You will be inundated with choices during your time at Bucknell. Dozens of speakers come to campus each year. The Weis Center where we sit now boasts a performance schedule worthy of performing arts centers anywhere. Classes you take will spark new interests. Friends you make will introduce you to new ideas and activities. How will you choose? We faculty are here to help you. But the great challenge for you is to figure out how to pick from this smorgasbord so that you are living a life that is worthy of your highest aspirations.

Choose well and welcome to Bucknell.