Purdue president tells grads they have the skills to move the world forward

August 6, 2011

Lisa Alexander is hooded in recognition of earning her Doctor of Philosophy degree during the 214th Commencement on Saturday, August 6, 2011 at Elliott Hall of Music. (Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue President France A. Córdova on Saturday (Aug. 6) told more than 1,400 graduates that their time at the university has provided them with a unique set of skills, memories and learning experiences that enable them to make their mark on the world.

Córdova addressed the newest graduates during the summer commencement ceremony in Elliott Hall of Music, urging them to be bold, fearless leaders.

"My hope for each of you is that you are unafraid, that you embrace everything that lies before you with energy, confidence, and a little impatience," she said. "Don't wait for anything. You define your own path, whose twists and turns will reflect the choices you make along the way. Starting today, what you make will move the world forward."

Córdova said each generation of college graduates shares a common experience and recalled that she went to college during the Vietnam War. She said that during that time of turmoil she listened and made mental notes.

"We were trying to understand the seemingly arbitrary choices being made for us - without our input," she said. "Why is there a student on Purdue's Board of Trustees today? Because my generation sought to have a role in decision-making.

"From a restless era, my generation earned a voice. Your generation has spread that voice around the world. Through the power of the Internet and social media, you can see and speak with your peers - in real time - at nearly any university on every continent. You are able to think critically and creatively and to solve complex problems that call for multiple inputs. You are the leaders of our future. We need to listen to what you have to teach us."

She pointed out that college is about more than the classroom; it also is about developing confidence, discipline and awareness. She recounted that when she went to graduate school, she decided to switch from a career in writing to a career as an astrophysicist and had serious self-doubt.

Purdue president France A. Córdova addresses the graduates during the 214th Commencement on Saturday, August 6, 2011 at Elliott Hall of Music.(Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)

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"But one day, while examining new data from a satellite experiment, I came upon something no one had ever seen before; in that moment of discovery I understood what drives a scientist," she said.

"My teachers and mentors put their faith in me as a young student and allowed me to open a new window on the universe. I have never let go of the notion that every student is worth this investment; every student can envision that he or she can discover something never seen before, or make something that is unique, or do something that makes a difference."

Córdova also stressed the importance of learning about, and from, other cultures and nations. She said due to her father's work, she traveled a great deal while growing up and lived and learned among other cultures. She wrote about these experiences: penning poetry in Italy, having a short story about the women of an Indian pueblo in Mexico published and writing an article for a national magazine in Israel.

"I am dedicated to helping students study abroad," she said. "Since I came to Purdue four years ago, student participation in study abroad programs has increased by 40 percent. Thousands of Boilermakers are getting to know other cultures and sharing our culture around the world. To those of you who are international students, thank you for choosing Purdue and enlarging our perspective."
Writer:  Greg McClure, 765-496-9711, gmcclure@purdue.edu

Source:  France A. Córdova, president@purdue.edu 

Note to Journalists: The full text of Córdova's speech will be available at   http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/academics/2011/110806SP-CordovaCommence.html