May 2, 2010

Students, What I Wish For You This Summer

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Spring came to Ithaca earlier than usual this year, retreated abruptly, then returned to lift our spirits and remind us of the beauty and promise that surround us on campus and in our lives. Many of us are eagerly awaiting the last day of classes and looking forward to Slope Day and the summer that follows. As you study hard for finals and complete projects and theses, be sure to build in some time to enjoy the campus in its spring glory and to do the things you enjoy. Remember how much more effective you are when you take the occasional break, exercise, eat well and sleep enough: These are lessons I am constantly relearning 40 years after my own college commencement!

Soon finals will be behind you and — for the class of 2010 and those completing advanced degrees — soon your Cornell days will be behind you as well. No matter your plans for this summer and the year that follows, I thank you for the many ways you’ve helped Cornell become a stronger and more caring community this year and for the many things you have taught me. Most of all, during a challenging year you have taught me again how to look forward with hope, optimism and an appreciation of the place and the family that is Cornell.

As you read this column, I am in Doha, Qatar, preparing to confer degrees at the commencement ceremony of Weill Cornell Medical College — Qatar, the first of three Cornell commencements I am honored to celebrate each year. As this terrific season unfolds, this is what I wish for you this summer:

For the class of 2010 and those completing advanced degrees, bask in the accomplishments that have brought you to this milestone and remember what it says about your ability to plan, to achieve, to excel. Best wishes in landing the job or advanced education you are seeking; but, if you don’t accomplish that as soon as you’re hoping, try not to worry too much. I speak as President, knowing the continuing advantage that your Cornell degree gives you even in such a competitive market and as the father of a recent college graduate who earned his degree in the depths of the Great Recession and is now gainfully employed, despite a lot of worrying on both our parts! You are Cornellians and you will land on your feet: Don’t forget to use the tremendous expertise in Career Services, to talk with your advisor and other faculty and to use the extensive, impressive network of Cornellians around the globe.

For those students returning next fall, while you are away this summer, please take care of yourselves and enjoy your family, your friends and the opportunities you seek over these months. Sure, look ahead to all that you hope to accomplish in the weeks, months and years to follow, but also realize how much of life cannot be predicted with precision. Never could I have predicted as a psychology major in the 1960s, a medical student in the 1970s or a physician and researcher in the 1980s and ’90s that I would be with you now in my position. So think broadly and let opportunity beckon you.

Most importantly, I hope you will take time this summer to open yourselves to the wonder of the planet we call home – with its beauty and unpredictability; to the connectedness, support and love of family and friends; to the optimism of a child; to the power and joy of music; to the promise that comes with each new day.

I’ll be thinking of all of you and looking forward to seeing most of you in the fall, many of you over the summer, and to staying in touch with all of you in one way or another.

Again, thank you for the magic of Cornell that we all share.

Original Author: David J. Skorton