Convocation Welcomes Class of 2016

Monday’s convocation ceremony, welcoming the Polytechnic Institute of New York University's (NYU-Poly) Class of 2016, began with quiet excitement as new students arrived at Rogers Hall to thumb through orientation folders and view presentations by this year’s Summer Research Program students. 

Waiting for the ceremony to begin, incoming first-year students filled rows of white folding chairs in the gym and chatted with anticipation. Among them were friends Valentina D’Costa and Divyaben Patel, who graduated from the same high school in Queens last spring. Patel said that she chose NYU-Poly because her older sister also attends and likes it. D’Costa said, “My mother inspired me to go for this. In India, there’s not much opportunity for girls. That’s why we came to the U.S. My older sister is going into medicine, so I’m going into engineering. When we visited colleges, the first school that stood out to me was NYU, so when I found out [it] has a special engineering school geared toward whatever I want, it pulled me in.”

Today’s Beginners, Tomorrow’s Leaders

D’Costa turned to face the stage as a bagpipe procession led faculty and administration into the gym, building the energy in the room. “Good morning, NYU-Poly Class of 2016!” said Dean of Student Affairs Anita Farrington. Her greeting was echoed by cheers from incoming and current students alike. 

In her opening remarks, Dean Farrington urged students “to create new knowledge and be a part of the profound effort of solving global problems.” She then introduced President Jerry Hultin, who elaborated on the theme she had introduced.

“It’s been said by a friend of mine that talent is the oil of the 21st century,” said President Hultin. “You are that talent.” Hultin exhorted students to combine traditional disciplines with new ways of thinking, and assured them that, “If you’re ready for the big time, we have angel investors to back you, and access to the best venture capitalists in the world.” 

Incoming students, he said, will be in the prime years of their careers when Earth’s population reaches a predicted nine billion humans. Today’s eager first-year students—applying the school’s “i2e” approach: invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship—will someday graduate to become the scientists and engineers “inventing technologies for smarter cities and infrastructure,” said Hultin, or “delivering better healthcare.”

A Distinguished Graduate

Hultin then introduced another notable graduate, the convocation’s keynote speaker: Fred Amoroso, who is an alumnus and the Chairman of Yahoo!. 

“Forty-five years ago, perhaps to this very day, I was sitting in your seats,” said Amoroso. “It all started here... In my first organic chemistry class, I [thought], ‘Well, what’s this new thing called Systems Engineering?’ It was about computers, and bridging the analog and digital.”

The rest, of course, is Amoroso’s well-known professional history. After receiving both a B.S. in Systems Engineering and an M.S. in Operations Research from NYU-Poly (then called the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn), Amoroso went on to play major roles in companies including Price Waterhouse (now Pricewaterhouse Coopers), IBM, CrossWorlds Software, Meta Group, Warburg Pincus, Rovi and, of course, Yahoo!.

Speaking to the relationships between innovation and business, Amoroso encouraged new students to take advantage of every possible opportunity offered to them during their years at NYU-Poly. He ended his remarks with “Thinking,” a poem by Walter D. Wintle, which includes the lines: “If you think you are outclassed, you are / You’ve got to think high to rise / You’ve got to be sure of yourself before / You can ever win a prize.”

Win A Prize

Following Amoroso’s keynote speech, he himself was awarded a prestigious honor: the Distinguished Alumni Award. The award was presented by Josiane Arbouet, President of the Polytechnic Institute Alumni Association. 

The 2012 Jacobs Excellence in Education Award was also bestowed on Professors Tommy Lee (Chemical and Biological Sciences) and Allan Goldstein (Technology, Culture, and Society). 

Lastly, the Nick Russo Award for Outstanding General Engineering Design was awarded to 16 students: Rabia Ahmad, Hyun-Jun Choi, Allison Cooley, Simon Gellis, Abhimanyu Ghosh, Edward Holz, Daljinder Japra, Daniel Kankel, Damian Lanningham, Leona Manandhar-Sasaki, Julian Molina-Goni, Christopher Muldoon, Tracy Parker, Mohammed Rahmann, Lacey Samsoe, Luis Tejada. 

The ceremony closed with remarks from Provost Katepalli Sreenivasan and a photo slideshow of incoming students’ responses to the question: What will YOU do? “I will engineer the next best gadget,” wrote one student. “I will harmonize innovation with conservation,” was another’s reply. “I will chase the life I really want,” wrote a third. And a fourth: “I will change the world.”

Where Good Ideas Come From

After the convocation ceremony, students picked up bagged lunches and broke into small assigned groups, introducing themselves to one another. One group included incoming first-year students from New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, and Utah. It also included New York’s own May Vutrapongvatana. “Hi, I’m May, and I’m from Brooklyn!” said Vutrapongvatana to her cohort, as they congregated on the sixth floor. “Welcome to Brooklyn, if you’re not from here!” 

Led by faculty members, students discussed their summer reading assignment, Where Good Ideas Come From: The History of Innovation, by Steven Johnson. In one room, students considered similarities between coral reefs and cities, and how connection leads to innovation. Right next door, another group discussed how hunches are collected and incubated, the benefits of reading broadly and strategically using electives, and the importance of allowing yourself ample time to think. 

Orientation leader William Pang, a sophomore and Biomolecular Science major, observed his group’s discussion and offered his own advice to the incoming class. “Don’t be scared to talk to people,” he said. “Go to your professors’ office hours. Make sure your schoolwork comes first. And get sleep.”

Back downstairs, as workers stacked the white folding chairs in the now-empty gym, students filtered into the lobby and headed for buses that would take them to the historic Beacon Theater. They were off to an NYU Presidential Welcome and Reality Show, followed by an exciting week of continued orientation events. And then? Four full years of invention, innovation, entrepreneurship—and hopefully at least a little sleep.