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'You are the stewards of our future,' new dean tells freshmen

welcome

"I am a newly minted dean, as you are newly minted students of our school, so we are going to start this journey together," Wendi Heinzelman told incoming Hajim School freshmen during her welcoming remarks on Thursday. (Photo by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester)

The “newly minted” dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences urged a “newly minted” class of 435 incoming freshmen to consider college the start of a lifetime of learning.

“You are going to be the stewards of our future,” Wendi Heinzelman told the Class of ’20 in her welcoming remarks at Strong Auditorium. “Someone in here may be the next Steve Jobs (Apple cofounder). There’s a lot of really great potential in this room. We want to set you up so you can become lifelong learners; we want to engage you in activities that make you competent and creative and – mostly importantly – help you to be honest and ethical.”

She defined engineering as solving problems within a set of constraints – and, in the process, turning dreams into reality.

“Engineering opens up almost any career path you can imagine,” she said.

However, she encouraged the freshmen to start planning now for three key college experiences – outside the classroom – that will help them discover their passions and future paths:

  • Hands-on research. Unlike solving a classroom problem, where the answer is known, research is “the process of creating new knowledge, of finding solutions where none are known,” Heinzelman said. “That’s a very different skill from what you get in the classroom” – but one that is highly valued by employers.
  • Internships. A summer spent in an engineering workplace helps students “see the material you learn in class in an entirely new way,” Heinzelman said. “You’ll see the application of that knowledge to something that has to go into a product, within even more constraints than in a classroom.” Internships also help students zero in on the career options that interest them the most.
  • Global experience through study abroad or other overseas learning opportunities. “International experience is vital for engineers,” Heinzelman said. A better understanding of the world outside this country will serve students well if they work for multinational companies, she said. Moreover, studies have shown that study abroad improves students’ performance when they return.

She advised the freshmen to:

  • Not be afraid to fail. “If you never fail it means you haven’t been pushing yourself hard enough,” Heinzelman said. “What you do next – how you learn from failure and move forward so you don’t repeat mistakes – that is what really counts.”
  • Manage their time wisely. That is more challenging in college than in high school, because class and lab schedules are less regimented, with a lot of free time in between. Heinzelman urged the students to turn off the “electronic” distractions while studying, and then . . .
  • “Make time for yourself,” she said. “It’s all about balance. You want to spend enough time studying for your classes, but you also need to find passions to pursue outside of class. Do you play an instrument? Do you play a sport? Be sure you get involved in those clubs and activities.”

Heinzelman, who counts sailing among her passions away from campus, concluded her remarks with this quote, often attributed to Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

freshmen

“If you never fail it means you haven’t been pushing yourself hard enough,” Heinzelman told 435 incoming freshmen. “What you do next – how you learn from failure and move forward so you don’t repeat mistakes – that is what really counts.” (Photo by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester)