Charge to the Class of 2017

August 25, 2013

The following address was given by Everette Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q, to the Class of 2017 at student orientation week.

I congratulate you on your acceptance into this rigorous and highly competitive school. That itself is an achievement that reflects your academic preparation to date as well as the promise that your admissions dossier demonstrates your intelligence in the forms of motivation and capacity for academic success.

You have proven your readiness, and, believe me, the work has just begun as you enter this university and embark on a course of study. Follow the pathway laid out by us—and shaped by your own choices and decisions—and at the end of your journey you will find that you have entered into the company of educated women and men.

The first steps set a tone for your journey. This week is one of the few dedicated times you will have to envision, think about and manage your life as a Northwestern student. As you do so, remember that the university is solely concerned with learning and the advancement of knowledge. That’s our mission; that’s our function. This happens for one compelling reason.

As the historian Richard Hofstadter put it so well: “A university’s essential character is that of being a center of free inquiry and criticism, a thing not to be sacrificed for anything else.” In a region of the world, undergoing great change and challenged by many influences, we the institutions of Education City/Hamad bin Khalifa University have been assured of full academic freedom, unfettered by outside influence. Only with such a guarantee can free inquiry and learning take place.

This is not something to be taken lightly. Academic freedom exists here at Northwestern because we know and understand it as the underpinnings of learning and advancement of knowledge and work hard to assure its fulfillment. As a member of this academic community you too will be called upon to join in this pursuit. For that we require you to have an open mind, tolerance and respect for others and their views, no matter how distant they may be from our own. In the same way, we encourage your perspective and protect your freedom of expression. In doing so we embrace universal concepts of education and human rights while also respecting local traditions and values.

Now it is time for my charge to the class. Not incidentally, the term, “charge,” is one of the most varied in the English language with many meanings, but today I used to remind you (and  all of us at NU-Q) of our duty, our responsibility and our obligations as members of this community. Therefore:

I charge you to have faith in freedom, the basis for all human inquiry;

I charge you to embrace education by being a serious student, who seeks out knowledge and understanding within and outside the classroom, doing more than just getting by;

I charge you to think broadly and to draw on the great assets of this university and our sister schools in Education City—and apply your imagination and intellect to courses you’d never before imagined or even heard of;

I charge you to participate in “the second curriculum,” that wide array of special speakers, visitors and conferences that are not part of the classroom, but that often feature some of the best minds and leading professionals in the region and larger world;

I charge you to connect knowledge with action, moving beyond test scores, to create publishing, filmmaking and media projects that become part of your professional portfolio;

I charge you to actively communicate—stay in touch with family and friends, reach out to others at NU-Q, get to know our talented staff and remember that you will miss a great deal if you don’t do this pro-actively, rather than waiting for others;

I charge you to engage the faculty, to get to know them, and establish lifelong relationships;

I charge you to know, understand and appreciate your fellow students, exulting in their diversity, wide interests and passion for learning;

I charge you to be a good citizen of Northwestern University, to be loyal to its values, and to take part in activities that advance the cause of the university in Qatar and beyond;

I charge you to participate in extracurricular activities and to learn the lessons of leadership;

I charge you to lighten up, to enjoy yourself and truly experience the joy of these wonderful college years where you will likely make deep friendships never to be forgotten.

And finally, may your journey here be marked by challenge, excitement, risk-taking, imagination, creativity and productive spirit. If you apply yourself here, you will make us and your parents very proud indeed. And more importantly, you will be proud of yourself.