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Convocation: A Warm Welcome

The collective glow on the faces of the members of the Class of 2017 could have lit the Polytechnic Institute of NYU (NYU-Poly) gym with no help from a single electrical engineer. They gathered on August 26 for Poly’s final official convocation, which featured a procession of bagpipes, welcome messages from President Katepalli Sreenivasan and NYU Deputy President Diane Yu, and words of advice from Deans Anita Farrington and Joy Colelli, Polytechnic Institute Alumni Association head Gerry Dawes, Student Council leader John Keshecki, and others.

Sreenivasan stressed to the students that they are entering the school at an auspicious and historic time. They constitute both the last class joining Poly as an independent institution and the first to enter as the merger with NYU is finalized in January 2014 -- circumstances that called for equal measures of reflection and anticipation. They were joining the ranks of the thinkers, inventors and innovators who have called Poly home, he asserted, while also becoming heirs to the traditions of NYU. “You thus have the best of both worlds, and the future is doubly yours to define and enjoy,” he said.

Victoria Verdan, a civil engineering student from San Francisco, was among the incoming freshman in the packed gymnasium who planned to follow President Sreenivasan’s advice to take advantage of all that Poly has to offer. “When I first toured the campus, I was so impressed with the labs,” Verdan said, extolling the hands-on learning environment for which Poly is known. “I can’t wait to get in there and get started.”

Diane Yu, NYU’s Deputy President, echoed those sentiments, exhorting the students to embrace the venerable nature of Poly while reveling in the new, dynamic aspects of NYU. “The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering is going to be a very special place,” she told them. “And you have made an excellent, innovative choice in attending.”

Robert Briksza, a chemical and biomolecular engineering major, was enthusiastic about the possibilities afforded by the merger. “I have always been focused on studying engineering,” he explained, “and it’s great to be able to do it at NYU.”

Briksza and Verdan join more than 600 other new undergraduates as part of what Dean Colelli described as one of the most accomplished classes in Poly history. “They represent the best of their high schools,” she said as she presented the class of 2017 to President Sreenivasan and the gathered faculty; and continued, “They’ve taken the most rigorous courses, engaged in research, won national competitions, volunteered, and started companies.” Citing the fact that they hail from more than two-dozen states and 18 countries, she explained that they nonetheless shared a common goal: to make a difference in the world.

Sreenivasan concluded his remarks to the incoming class with the following, “We will offer you student competitions; we will provide you opportunities to learn; we will foster your entrepreneurial side; we will help develop your ideas from seedlings to saplings to redwoods. Poly is the place where the phrase the American Dream was coined. This is also the place in which we are your partners and stand beside and behind you to support your dreams.”
Ian Butler, a computer science student and aspiring tech entrepreneur, is ready to get to work on that dream. “I’ll be touring the incubators later,” he said. “Maybe my own company will be there one day.”