On Sunday, September 17, Caltech extended an official welcome to its new undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and their families and friends, at the 15th annual Convocation Ceremony held in Beckman Auditorium.
In a series of presentations by faculty, graduate students, and a current undergraduate student, Caltech's newest members were encouraged to embrace the Institute's small, diverse research community, and to take advantage of the myriad of opportunities that come with being part of Caltech. They were reminded that students here have the ability to become involved in the arts, athletics, student leadership, and outreach; to lead transformational research projects; and to energize and educate future generations and the broader community by sharing their personal passions for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
"Welcome to one of the great universities of the world," President Thomas F. Rosenbaum said in an opening address in which he provided the audience with a glimpse into the Institute overall as well as advice for getting the most out of their educational experiences.
As the kick-off for a week of orientation activities and events, convocation serves as an official introduction to Caltech and the school year, which begins on September 25. It is an opportunity for the newest members of the Caltech community to meet one another, to experience life at the Institute, and to "set the tone of their personal growth and intellectual journey," said Vice President of Student Affairs Joe Shepherd (PhD '81), emphasizing that these are at the core of the Caltech experience.
Among the undergraduate students joining the community this year are 235 freshmen, one transfer student, and two individuals who have enrolled at Caltech through the 3/2 program—a partnership that invites students at a select group of liberal arts colleges to apply to transfer to Caltech after the completion of their junior year and eventually earn a degree from both institutions. The new graduate student class comprises 247 students from around the world.
The focus of this year's convocation event was outreach—and the impact of such experiences in shaping one's time at Caltech.
In his address, Assistant Professor of Astronomy Evan Kirby, urged the students to take up their "duty of being a science ambassador."
"Science ambassadorship is worthwhile because there is a hunger out there; people really do want to hear about science," Kirby said, going on to highlight a number of different ways Caltech students can become involved with their community—everything from participating in stargazing lectures for the public to volunteering for science fairs and programs at local schools.
Geophysics graduate student Celeste Labedz emphasized the personal rewards of giving back.
"It's addicting to see these kids' minds blown by learning something new," Labedz said of the Science Night program—organized by the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach—that brings faculty, staff, and students to local schools to share hands-on science and engineering activities. "There are lots of outreach programs that you can get involved with at Caltech to make a difference in STEM...Caltech provides us with some great opportunities to be able to do so."
Undergraduate Rachael Morton, a senior in computer science, and graduate student Manuel Razo Mejia both noted in their separate remarks the key role that others played in introducing them to science and ultimately inspiring their path to Caltech. Taking part in outreach activities now, they said, is a way to pay that mentoring forward.
"We are hoping to show that to be a scientist…you just have to have passion, you have to have a love of discovery, and you have to be willing to accept the challenges that come with it," Mejia said.