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Emphasizing that college is a broad, enriching experience that goes well beyond getting good grades and earning a degree, President Tom Buchanan on Thursday (Aug. 23) welcomed the landmark 125th entering freshman class to the University of Wyoming.
Addressed to freshmen and entering transfer students in the Arts and Sciences auditorium, Buchanan’s talk culminated the Summit Transitions Program, a series of activities to engage students in the university community and prepare them for a successful transition to higher education. Fall semester classes begin Monday.
Buchanan encouraged the students to get involved in things of interest outside the classroom.
“Join a sorority . enjoy the mountain biking trails that surround Laramie . participate in intramural sports . try out the activities in the student union . join a club . get involved with a service project . go to a football game . or attend a concert. Balance your studies with positive experiences outside of the classroom.”
Going to class, Buchanan said, is his No. 1 recommendation to be a successful student.
“There is a strong relationship between class attendance and grades. In the days and weeks to come, you will find that you have more freedom than ever before,” Buchanan said. “Going to class is the first chance you have to show that you’re ready to take on the responsibilities of your own education.”
There is a world of difference between getting a diploma and getting an education, he told the students. “A degree is a symbol of your education and the effort that went into it. Effort means sweat -- learning from your failures, pushing your limits, and many late nights with too much coffee. We don’t honor a piece of parchment; we honor the work that goes into it.”
Turning to one of his major concerns, Buchanan advised the students to make wise decisions involving alcohol use, noting that it is directly correlated to poor academic performance.
“Surrounding yourself with smart people who will give you good advice, will help you be successful. Bad advice leads to bad decisions,” he said. “The university is loaded with smart people; seek them out and listen to what they have to say.”
Persistence and determination are more important than talent and genius, he said.
He reminded the students of the historical significance of being part of UW’s 125th entering class. In 1887, 36 students, including 33 from Albany County, made up the first class of students who enrolled mainly in high school preparatory courses and a few advanced courses in agriculture and the mechanical and liberal arts. This year, approximately 1,500 freshmen are entering the university. UW is home to more than 700 full-time instructional faculty members from around the globe and offers degrees in more than 190 areas of study.
Buchanan said he studied the educational works of the university’s first president, John Wesley Hoyt (1887-1890), and shared Hoyt’s observation that education is something that never ends.
“It is a prize that can’t be taken from us. It shapes our character and strengthens our minds,” Buchanan said. “It makes us independent, and it is ours to keep forever.”