Orientation is a highlight on the University calendar and an opportunity for Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne to welcome new students to Otago.
For many years it has been well-recognised that OUSA hosts the best Orientation programme in New Zealand. Over the past three years, the University has joined forces with OUSA to provide additional orientation events that are designed to highlight the educational opportunities and pastoral support that are available at Otago. For me, Orientation has become one of the highlights on my annual calendar; I have the opportunity to meet new and returning students, to reassure families about what lies ahead and to recharge my own internal batteries using the energy of the thousands of bright young people who have come here to study.
On February 17, I will have the privilege of joining the Mayor of Dunedin, the President of OUSA and members of Ngāi Tahu to formally welcome the incoming class of 2014 to the University of Otago. This welcome ceremony takes place at the Forsyth Barr Stadium and it provides a unique opportunity to set the stage for life at Otago. So, as the Vice-Chancellor, what will I say to more than 4,000 new students as they embark on this new and exciting phase of their life?
First, I will ask our new students to take a moment to reflect on how fortunate they are. A university education, particularly an Otago education, is a life-changing event. The knowledge and skills that our students acquire during their time at Otago will not only set the stage for a productive and satisfying career, but the friendships they forge in the process will last for a lifetime. In terms of their good fortune, I will also ask our new students to reflect on the support and assistance that they have received from their teachers, families and friends. I will gently remind them that no one ever gets this far on their own.
Second, I will challenge them to be the best students they can possibly be. Our goal at Otago is to push students harder than they have ever been pushed before; in turn, their obligation is to work harder and learn more than they ever thought possible. I will underscore the amazing academic opportunities at Otago. I will encourage our new students to embrace these opportunities and to continue to cultivate their love of learning, long after they graduate.
Finally, I will encourage our new students to be the best people they can be. A university education is much more than what happens in the classroom – it is also about all the other life lessons you learn along the way. It is important for students to study hard, but it is equally important for them to stretch their wings in other, non-academic ways. I will urge them to pursue an old sport or pick up a new one, join a club, volunteer their time to help someone in need and help us in our efforts to make our campuses more environmentally friendly. I will encourage our new students to treat Dunedin like their home and to take advantage of all of the wonderful things that the city has to offer. In doing so, I will remind them that they shouldn’t do anything here that they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing on their own front doorstep.
In closing, as alumni, I know that each of you has a treasure trove of precious memories of your time here at Otago and I suspect that just thinking about the new academic year makes you just a little bit jealous that you can’t come back and do it all over again. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to watch another year at Otago unfold. From my vantage point, the view is nothing short of breathtaking. Please join me in welcoming the incoming class of 2014.