Take Charge: Develop Your Intellect. Make Good Choices. Develop A Game Plan. And Always Be Willing to Fight One More Round.

Issue Date: 
September 10, 2007

Kathy Humphrey, Pitt vice provost for student affairs and dean of students, delivered the following address Aug. 23 during Freshman Convocation in the Petersen Events Center



“Good afternoon. What a privilege it is to welcome you to one of the finest institutions in the world.

We are thrilled that you have chosen to become a part of our community. We are also committed to being in union with you as you begin to build your life upon the foundation that you have been given by your family, friends, teachers, and mentors.

As I reflected on what your senior year might have been like, I thought about the many experiences you might have enjoyed. Let us face it, many high school seniors are seen as the kings and queens of the hill. Like the last drop of something good, high school seniors often savor the last football or basketball game. They give their final curtain call on stage. In addition, in the yearbook they pen their goodbyes to friends, some of whom they have known since elementary school. They take their last exams, get dressed to kill for the prom, and the whole family attends the graduation ceremony. What a year you have had!

While reflecting on your year, I could not help but think about the summer of my own senior year in high school. I remember that summer being filled with great anticipation for my first year in college. I thought about many things that summer. I thought about the people I would miss seeing every day. Some of you may be struggling with these same thoughts. However, if you engage in some of the many activities and organizations that will be provided for you, I am confident that you will develop new relationships. If you make up your mind that you are going to become connected to our community, I know that there is a great chance that those feelings of homesickness will subside.

I also thought about my new roommate. Now, the first time I ever saw or spoke to my roommate was when I arrived on campus. At first, we struggled a bit because we never had a conversation about how the two of us could best live together. Once I mustered up the courage to ask her to sit with me and establish some ground rules, our room became a much better place for the both of us to live in.

However, the thought that truly thrilled me that summer was that I, Kathy Wilson, was finally going to be for the first time totally in charge of my own life. Now, being in charge was a big deal to me, for whenever my parents were not home, the oldest child was left in charge. Since I am No. 10 of 11 children, it was understood that I was never in charge. However, I had great ideas about what I would do if I ever became in charge. Being in charge of my life at that point meant that I would go wherever I wanted to go, I would do whatever I wanted to do, and be wherever I wanted to be as long as I wanted to be there. A few times, my excitement blinded my common sense and courtesy. I made the remark, “I can’t wait to get out of this house,” which I later regretted because it hurt my parents’ feelings. I was not trying to hurt their feelings; I was just so excited about becoming independent and in charge of my own life.

So, as I began to think about the end of your senior year and the many gifts you may have received, I tried to determine what nonperishable gifts I could give someone who had just become large and in charge. I decided the best gifts I could give you were some of the best gifts I had ever received, which were seeds of advice that my parents, mentors, and those whom I respect have planted in life. Those things I have accomplished and am most proud of have been produced because of those seeds. Therefore, I will give you three seeds of advice, which I hope will be useful on your new journey.

Seed No. 1: Our choices often determine the quality of our lives.

Because you are now in charge, from now until the end of your life you will make choices that will create many of your life’s circumstances. We hope you make many choices. We hope you choose to strive for excellence in everything that you do, always performing at the highest level. We hope you choose to manage your time well, for your time here will pass very quickly.

Today, four years may seem like a lifetime away, but believe me, it is just around the corner, and unmanaged time will produce unnecessary stress in your life. Whether you go to graduate or professional school or head to the job market after graduation, we hope you make choices that will help you gain experiences that will make your résumé or vita stand out from your national peers’. We hope that you will choose to step out of your comfort zones and build relationships with people who may not look, dress, or speak like you, for we believe that your mind will be expanded and your understanding of the world may become larger and richer.

Seed No. 2: Remember, if you do not believe in yourself, most will not believe in you.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, writes, “It is our choices that show who we really are,” but it will be difficult to make the hard choices if you do not believe in who you are. We admitted you because we saw greatness in you. We admitted you because we believed that you have gifts, talents, and skills to be more than successful here, but we believed that you could become a University of Pittsburgh graduate and play a significant role in our world. Now that you are in charge, you must be constantly creating, developing, and renewing a positive belief system for yourself.

A leading psychologist once said: Feeling good about yourself is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity. Feeling good about yourself does not just happen. You have to work at it every single day. You have to remind yourself about all of your positive attributes so when you find an area that you need to work on, you will have the energy to work on it. With a stronger sense of self, you will also have the ability to realize that while you may not be perfect, there is a whole lot of good inside of you.

Questions that most college students ask themselves are “Who am I?” and “What am I to do with who I am?” Often, those who have spent time gaining a stronger sense of self are better prepared to begin creating the answers to these questions. We have many resources that will help you create a stronger you. Our goal is the education of the whole student, both inside and outside of the classroom. We will provide courses, workshops, services, programs, and activities that will attend to you intellectually, physically, culturally, spiritually, globally, and yes, even socially. However, it will be up to you to seize these opportunities, for when you do, you will be creating a stronger you. If you spend time building a stronger you, you will be better prepared to weather the storms that are a part of every life.
This brings me to the last seed that I will give you.

Seed No. 3: Always have a game plan that includes winning.

For the last two years, I have been given the awesome opportunity to serve as a guest coach for our women’s basketball team and have become a true fan. I can hardly wait for you to see them play, for the women on our team are incredible on the court, in the classroom, and in our community.

Now, serving as the guest coach simply means I have the opportunity to sit with the team and listen to the coach’s discussions. This is a great time for a person who does not have an athletic bone in her body. However, more than just having a great time, I have been amazed at the life lessons that can be learned on the basketball court. For every game, a game plan is created with the sole purpose of overcoming defeat and winning. It is understood that there will be struggles and difficulties, but every coach and every player take to every game the mindset that losing is not an option.

There have been times on the court when it appears that everything is going in the wrong direction, but adjustments are made and the entire game turns around. Always remember, if things appear to be going the wrong way, you just need to adjust your game plan. After the game, I have watched the coaches sit individually with the players and discuss ways they can improve their game. There may be times when you need to step out of the game for a moment and speak to someone who can help you adjust your game.

We have advisors and counselors on-call 24 hours a day to assist you in adjusting your game plan. All is not lost just because a basket or two are missed, for there is still the opportunity to rebound. If you do not get the grade that you desire on the first exam, position yourself to rebound by getting tutoring, meeting with your professor during office hours, or finding a peer to study with who has grasped the concepts.

It is always tough to go into overtime, for it is not always expected. The player has fought a good fight, but overtime requires one to search deep within oneself, to find energy to create the win. There will be occasions where you will have to go into overtime to get the victory you are seeking, in the classroom or in your extracurricular activities.

A prizefighter was once asked: What does it take to be a champion? He responded: You must be willing to fight one more round. Every game plan is created with the understanding that difficulties will come, but if you are willing to fight one more round, you can live a victorious life.

You have come as boys and girls, but will leave as men and women. Yes, you are now in charge, but you are in charge to transform yourself into the man or woman you choose to be. You are in charge of your soul, which is your intellect, your will, your emotions, and your imagination. Take charge and develop your intellect both inside and outside of the classroom. Take charge and use your will to make good choices that can take you to good places. Take charge and develop a game plan that can help you boldly face the difficulties that may come your way. Take charge and develop the strongest you, as you create your own Pitt Pathway, and we will be cheering and supporting you as you move along the way.

Have a great year.”