President Edward Guiliano addresses graduates at NYIT's 53rd annual Commencement on May 18, 2014, at NYIT's Old Westbury campus.
Good morning, welcome, and congratulations, Class of 2014.
Welcome, too, to parents, family, friends, and faculty on this beautiful morning.
Just take a moment and look around you at this remarkable gathering. We come from many different cultures, our graduates today represent 29 states and nearly 70 countries. Fifty-eight percent have earned undergraduate degrees; 42 percent have earned graduate, medical, professional, or post-graduate degrees. But today we are all connected; to our 3,114 graduates and their achievements – but also connected to one another, and to NYIT.
"Only connect!" advised E.M. Forster in "Howard's End." But he wrote that over a hundred years ago. Nowadays, when we want to connect, we're usually asking if the Wi-Fi is working.
When we talk about human connection, we're usually referring to something more personal, the kind of bond that allows us to share and exchange ideas, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. And in this brave new digital world, don't we humans need connectivity as well?
In order to make human connections, we need the ability to recognize and communicate with one another across global networks, and also across geographic borders, languages, cultures, and disciplines.
During your years here, soon-to-be graduates, I am confident that you have learned the skills for both connectivity and connection.
Technology is more than a skill or a tool – it is our world.
'Twas not always thus.
You know on a day like today, it is difficult for me – and I suspect for some members of the faculty and the audience—not to think back on their college years and graduation. For me, that meant a time when lacrosse sticks were actually made of sticks...and high-tech meant feeding a deck of punch cards to a computer main-frame...Hey, it wasn’t that long ago...
Back then, college was a repository of knowledge where professors were prophets and guardians of wisdom. (And, of course, many of the members of our faculty still are.)
Now, though, with a simple click, anyone can have immediate access to unimaginable masses of information. Yet as Einstein wisely said, "Information is not knowledge." To which I humbly add, "And knowledge is not wisdom."
So, if technology is how we connect, cultural fluency is what allows us to communicate with one another, recognizing the value of both our differences and commonalities.
Steve Jobs often complained about the narrow focus and limited backgrounds of his Apple colleagues. Because they “haven't had very diverse experiences, they don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem."
I am proud to say that our 2014 class of undergraduates is among the first to have completed our Discovery Core Curriculum. This program, with its broad-based foundation in arts and sciences, interdisciplinary mindset, and focus on critical and analytical thinking, has given you a wide variety of dots and the ability to collaborate and to connect them in new and innovative ways.
And make no mistake – collaborations are key.
Of course, there may be among you one singular creative genius – a 21st-century Leonardo – but for most of us, the road to success will require collaboration, which, by definition, is rooted in connection.
Global problems like sustainability, access to clean water, and disease eradication require solutions from multiple areas of expertise and locales. Solutions will depend on teams of people and clusters of ideas, often working virtually, in cross-cultural collaborative hubs that span the world. That's why we were excited to bring together our students from New York and Abu Dhabi at our first global cybersecurity conference in the Middle East, and our students from New York and Nanjing at our Water-Energy Nexus conference in Beijing.
Our future – and the future of innovation and problem solving – will be found in mash-ups, at the intersections of Medicine and Education; Engineering and Management; Art, Design, and Technology...as well as cultures.
When we talk about innovation, we're usually referring to the next new gadget, the next disruptive idea or technology that will change the way we live. But more than any gadget or technology – the something that will change our world forever is you.
It has been estimated that in our heads we can store roughly 2.5 petabytes of memory — that's the one with the 15 zeros. If our brains were DVRs, they could hold 3 million hours of programming. You'd have to leave the TV on for 300 years to use up all that storage. Yikes...
And while computers certainly have advantages, chief among them speed, their abilities are limited. They can only do what they've been programmed to do ... so far ...
The human brain, on the other hand, is a learning machine, made up of about a billion neurons making more than a trillion sometimes-unpredictable connections. Those sparking neurons – with a helpful assist from your NYIT education – have made you fluid thinkers capable of random thought and insights that can explode into innovation.
I've often said that NYIT is an incubator of innovation, but what we really incubate are the innovators themselves.
Take another look around you. You may not know each other yet, but perhaps you should. Their skills, their different backgrounds and experiences, when combined with yours, may hold the key to the future.
And speaking of your future, I offer some wit and wisdom from C.S. Lewis: "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present.
And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."
So what lies ahead for you once you've hatched and left our incubator?
If you've given the matter some thought, you've probably come up with some choice four-letter words... I'm speaking, of course, of "J-O-B-S" and "D-E-B-T."
After all, you and your families have made a sizable investment of time, effort, and money in your education. I'm sure you're wondering about the benefit, the ROI – Return on Investment – of your NYIT education.
Well, the job market, though still a challenge, has steadily improved over the last few years. In fact, it's the best it's been in 7 years... In 2012 the unemployment rate for those ages 25-34 with a bachelor's degree or higher, was just 4 percent, versus more than 11 percent for those with only a high school diploma.
During their working lives, college graduates earn, on average, about 65 percent more than high school graduates, and the 42 percent of you graduating with advanced degrees are expected to earn two to three times more in a lifetime than high school graduates.
There are other more personal measures such as job satisfaction, as well as benefits to the larger community. Studies show that adults with higher levels of education are more likely to volunteer, to understand political issues, and to vote. They are also more likely to live healthy lifestyles and live longer.
So what's next?
For some of our medical school graduates, challenges and adventures await you at residencies at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Yale New Haven Hospital...and closer to home practicing emergency medicine at St. Barnabas Hospital, family medicine at Jamaica Hospital, or pediatric medicine at Newark Beth Israel.
Upon graduation, others will begin careers as engineers, business professionals, designers, physical and occupational therapists, marketers, and more. And for some, today is a first step towards graduate school. But there is no doubt you all will head into careers that will morph over time.
Consider that only a few years ago, no one was studying cybersecurity...
Some of you will find careers in fields not yet created, based on knowledge that does not yet exist.
Employers like Google – where some of you have been hired – are interested in more than technical skills. They're looking for people who can learn on the fly and synthesize disparate bits of information. They want employees who can work in teams, but are also "emergent leaders," capable of stepping up and claiming ownership of a given problem, but who, just as importantly, have the humility to embrace ideas better than their own.
While I know that your education has helped you to develop the skills you will need to succeed, I also trust that we have taught you to how fail successfully. It sounds odd, but learning how to fail – or rather, how to learn from failure – is one of life's great lessons.
In the words of literary wizard, J.K. Rowling, "Everything that fails brings you closer to what works." And make no mistake, everyone, at some point, fails. Thomas Edison was one of the greatest failures of all time – until he became a success. It has been estimated that it takes 3,000 ideas to yield one successful new product. Do keep an open mind and remain curious.
I began this speech by noting that we all are connected by this graduation day and the sacrifices and contributions made to help you get here. I want to conclude by encouraging our ongoing connection.
Connect with us online, through social media.
Connect with us at our networking and professional development events, reunions, and workshops.
Connect with our powerful network of alumni.
Connect with the next generation of NYIT innovators.
Mentor a future graduate, recruit new students — no one tells the NYIT story better than you. Remember your success is ours...
Ours is yours.
Take one final moment to look around you. These faces, soon-to-be thousands of smiling women and men—and not just because I am about to finish my address—are not just a part of your past; they are part of your future as well.
In closing, I offer some simple words of advice: remember to think deeply, speak gently, love much, laugh often, work hard, give freely, pay promptly ... and be kind.