In Welcome Address, President Rose Urges First Years to Embrace Challenge, Intellectual Fearlessness

A few hours after first-year students had returned to campus from their orientation trips, on Saturday, they met in front of the steps of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art to hear from Interim Dean of First Year Students Melissa Quinby, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Whitney Soule, and Bowdoin College President Clayton Rose.

In his remarks, Rose focused on two central pieces of advice he wanted to offer the new Bowdoin students: he urged them to both challenge themselves over the next four years and to be intellectually fearless.

“We grow and we learn, in good part, by failing, by figuring out what went wrong, and by moving ahead,” he said. “It isn’t fun all the time — it’s probably not fun any of the time — but it will be deeply satisfying. And the most successful people I know in all walks of life have learned from the failure that comes from pushing and stretching themselves.”

Becoming intellectually fearless — to grapple intensively with a broad range of ideas and issues — will set students up to have the “skills, the knowledge, and the disposition to deeply and effectively engage with the world’s most challenging issues and problems,” he added later.

“Our education and our experience are more about the questions than they are about the answers,” he noted. “They are about challenging deeply held views and pushing ourselves to comprehend new material — to engage with new ideas and ideas that we disagree with and, in doing so, to consider material that shakes us up, that unsettles us, and that yes, may offend us.”

Continuing, Rose said: “A great liberal arts education is not an easy thing. But it is deeply rewarding, it will set you on a path to ambitiously engage the world, to continue learning, to confront hard problems, and to enjoy success. You will learn new ways of thinking about old problems. You will test and affirm many ideas you hold dear. And on occasion you will change your mind.”

Read the full transcript of the event.

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