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What Will They Do?

Welcoming the Class of 2018

Bag pipes skirled and bass drums thumped to commence NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s 2014 Convocation on August 25th. NYU Pipes and Drums Corps provided the soundtrack as streams of robed faculty, administration and alum took the stage in the School of Engineering Gymnasium. Just a few moments prior, students in denim and backpacks, ball caps and t-shirts, waded into the gym in a less formal demonstration of where they will be roughly four years from now.

The ceremony, meant to officially kick off the academic year and welcome students to the NYU School of Engineering community, also honored award-winning faculty and introduced fellow peers showcasing the fruits of the summer research program.

Speaker after speaker addressed the class of 700 with their personal slivers of wisdom—from Eric Zucaro, Student Council President, who joked about enjoying the “free food” and urged the incoming class to get involved in campus activities to Diane Yu, NYU Deputy President, who emphasized the importance of juggling time.

Although scheduled Keynote Speaker William Kamkwamba, co-author of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, was unable to travel and address the Class of 2018 as planned, Anita Farrington, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Mistress of Ceremonies for the event, delivered Kamkwamba’s note of encouragement. Kamkwamba recalled being in the students’ position and encountering difficulties. When he needed help, he turned to faculty and advised the new class to do the same.

A highlight of the program came in the form of a video presentation composed of students answering the question, “What will you do?” Members of the fledging class, some holding their words written on sheets of paper, stated their intentions as they transitioned to the next phase of their academic life. Some responses were sizable in their simplicity like making someone smile or changing a stereotype. Others were more specific. All of them were sincere.

“I want to change how people see math. Make it more interesting and fun and change people’s lives with it,” said Keenan Kush. “I’m here to make an impact on the world and get a better understanding of the world around me.”

Dean Farrington even made an inspirational cameo stating what she vowed to do.

“I will give myself permission to take more time to dream and I’ll take risks,” Farrington said. “And I’ll encourage my students to do the same.”

When the lights came up, it was clear the video’s message that unlimited possibilities awaited was received. That message, well-threaded throughout the 2014 Convocation, was present as students watched versions of themselves creating (in the case of the Nick Russo Award winners who were recognized and raised robots for the room to admire), making advancements and achieving honors in STEM fields (when Professors Vikram Kapila and Maurizio Porfiri accepted the Jacobs Excellence in Education awards). The Class of 2018 is making plans of its own.

“I’m excited for when I graduate,” said Alyaa Elsaadany who will be studying chemical biomolecular engineering. “I want to go back to Egypt and implement my studies…I’d like to be a part of the process in creating a better environment.”

Kamal Fuseini, a student of computer and electrical engineering said, “I’m looking forward to the research and being able to build and create things. [This] is a school with a lot of opportunities for someone like me.”

Azza Awad was also firm in her belief that NYU School of Engineering was where she should be.

“I knew NYU's School of Engineering was both a rigorous school and a school that allows you to learn and mold yourself into the engineer you want to be,” said Awad. “With the support system they have here and the classes they have here, the School of Engineering will allow me to be a better version of myself.”

As the 2014 Convocation turned into a “working lunch” for an energy panel that followed, what the Class of 2018 would do next was predetermined, but what they will do in the future is limitless. Stay tuned.