Updates - From the Office of the NYIT President
May 22 2011
Thriving in the Near Tomorrow: Salute to the Class of 2011

President Edward Guiliano delivers the keynote address at NYIT's 50th annual commencement in Old Westbury, N.Y.

Good morning. Congratulations, Class of 2011.

Congratulations also to the parents, grandparents, faculty, and friends, and all the loved ones who helped bring you to this point in your lives.

I am standing before a remarkable group. This year, 3,454 students have earned degrees from New York Institute of Technology. Slightly more than half will be receiving undergraduate degrees, and the rest will be receiving advanced degrees.

Many studied at more than one NYIT campus.

To be here today, some of these graduates and their families traveled from the Bronx and Bahrain, from Astoria and Amman, from Northport and Nanjing.

We are graduating students from 50 states and 81 nations.

Welcome. Welcome soon-to-be graduates to what we hope will be one of your homes for the rest of your lives, NYIT. No matter where you will live or work, we are here for you, a 21st-century networked community of students, faculty, programs, and especially graduates spanning the globe, physically and virtually.

You are graduating from a university that is committed to educating a new generation equipped to succeed in the global marketplace and are prepared to be global citizens.

And our commitment to you does not end with this commencement -- this new beginning.

When it comes to graduation ceremonies, some things have not changed. I'm sure many of you are sitting there asking yourselves the same questions I did on my graduation day… back in the time when a "tweet" referred to … the sound that birds make.

You may be wondering how you're going to make the crucial decisions that lie ahead … how you're going to make an impact … you may be wondering how long this speech will last.

Let me confess right away: I don't remember my commencement speaker or anything that was said, though I could probably make it up today: The Twitter version would have been: "Go and prosper. Make us proud. You are the future!" Everything else would have been commentary.

Well, I'll try to do better than that.

What I do recall from that day is a sense of accomplishment, and exhilaration... and certainly curiosity, if not anxiety, about my future -- and I suspect you do too, about your future.

Years from now, you may recall that you graduated at a time when the world seemed to be in upheaval.

Economic recession, political revolutions, natural disasters -- it's been quite a year…. And it's only May.

The face of the world is changing. Please look around you. Your generation is more ethnically and racially diverse than any in America's history. As you advance in the workplace, you will find yourselves in the most inclusive economy ever, developing strategies and products that are enriched by human differences.

It's worth noting demography, too. Every day, more than 7,000 Americans turn 65. By 2030, 18 percent of Americans will be senior citizens, up from 12 percent today.

That trend is true for the majority of nations and will have a profound impact on the workplace.Certainly the physicians and other healthcare professionals we are graduating today will not lack for patients or the rewarding opportunity to heal them.

Globalization is transforming the workplace as well. In today's cross-border environment, individuals with broad cultural fluency and a global mindset have a distinct competitive advantage. That's why our curriculum is continually being refreshed by our gifted faculty.

And, as always, technology is a key driver of change. Here at New York Institute of Technology, we model technology in our teaching and research and work to live up to our last name.

In 2007, I stood on this stage and reflected on the effect technology was having on our society.

I estimated then that the majority of graduates that year had probably been on the Internet within the past 24 hours.

Now, four years later, I'm guessing that many of you were online within the last 24 minutes. Okay, let's be honest: Some of you are probably texting as I speak. Hey, I taught a class this spring, I know how it works.

Looking back further, if we had met on this spot in 1964, we would have seen signs of change and optimism as bulldozers and masons turned the old Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney estate into NYIT's newest campus.

Meanwhile, carpenters and painters were finishing the first formal library on our Manhattan campus. Things were different then.

For graduates, the workplace was largely predictable. Most people picked a career and went from one rung up the career ladder to the next. You could count on spending decades at a single company.

That same year, businesses showcased the latest technology at the World's Fair, which opened in Flushing Meadows Park, about halfway between here and the Manhattan campus.

At the IBM pavilion, technicians demonstrated that computers were not a threat, but user-friendly. Back then, computers were huge mainframes in air-conditioned rooms operated by engineers in lab coats.

The picturephone was the main attraction at the Bell Telephone pavilion. Visitors could make a call and actually see the other person while talking.

At General Motors' pavilion, you could take a train ride and visit a model city 60 years into the future. The announcer said: "The answers we seek will be found in the Near Tomorrow."

I think we should resurrect that phrase: The Near Tomorrow.

I'm sure many of you graduates have been grilled, "What are you going to do after graduation?" Many of you are tired of hearing it.

It is almost as bad as that four-letter word that keeps coming up in households this time of year: "JOBS."

It sounds like a valid question, though -- what are you going to do with your life? -- especially since you and your family have worked long hours to make your education possible.

That raises another four-letter word that gets used a lot this time of year: "DEBT," but I will touch on that later.

Now, I'd like to suggest that the life question is the wrong question to ask a graduate of any age. You should feel free to dream large.

Let your imaginations soar. Impose no limits on what you can be.

But even as you dream far into the future, plan for the Near Tomorrow.

Life will be lived in episodes and stages. Right now you are passing out of one stage and into another. There will be many more passages in your personal and professional lives. Indeed, labor economists predict that you will change careers -- not jobs, but careers -- five times on average. Some of those careers won't even exist until ten or twenty years from now.

So, you cannot plan your life based on how things will be in a decade or two. Certainly becoming a university president was not on my list.

Some things will remain constant: Taxes, checkups with the doctor, and, if you've been lucky like I have, love. But if you are too fixed on a distant goal, you'll miss opportunities today … and in the Near Tomorrow.

It was Bill Gates who noted that we tend to overestimate changes that will take place in the next few years, but underestimate the changes that will occur in the next ten.

As always, technology is a powerful force for change. And the speed of change in technology today is breathtaking and often disorienting. The transformations taking place are thrilling, momentous, and game-changing.

Hey, I just got an iPad II … Could Angry Birds be in my future?

Engineers carried slide rules from the seventeenth century until the 1970s, when the pocket calculator came along. And yet … it took just four years for the Flip video camera to go from being the hottest start-up in consumer electronics to becoming obsolete.

That's how it should be. By definition, technology is about invention and reinvention.

At NYIT, we have tried to provide you with the tools to embrace the future.

  • To prepare you for the next technological age, we have offered courses in technology and life sciences... as well as medicine.
  • To teach you how to understand things, express things, and sell things, we have offered psychology, communication arts, English, and marketing.
  • To teach you how to run things, we have offered courses in business administration, management, and entrepreneurship.
  • To teach you how to build things, we have offered design and engineering.

Social scientists tell us that the generation now making the passage into independence and full adulthood is confident, high achieving, and open to change.

If that's you, you value individuality and personal fulfillment. You are a great deal more upbeat than those of us in my generation -- about your economic future, your ability to balance your work with personal life, about the overall state of the nation.

Your optimism will be rewarded with opportunity.

This year, employers expect to hire 19 percent more college graduates than last year.

And NYIT graduates have an exceptional record of employment in their chosen professions shortly after graduation or advancement to graduate school in their field of choice.

No matter how we define the "hot job" of the year, an information-rich, digitally-saturated society puts a premium on individuals like you who have the ability to synthesize information from many sources.

That premium translates into real income.

Studies show that for each year of college, your annual income increases by about $10,000. You can do the math. That means $40,000 a year more than a high school graduate. A master's degree? $60,000 more.

And college graduates currently have a 95 percent employment rate -- far higher than high school-only grads.

Remember that four-letter word, DEBT? Well, without question, education is the single greatest proven investment anyone can make. You may have heard the expression: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."

Plus the return on investment for education, the ROI, is not simply financial. Statistically, college graduates live longer and are healthier. They are better citizens and contributors to their communities and families, and, I hope to their alma mater…

There are a host of associative and affective returns on your investment in earning an undergraduate or graduate degree -- from the lifelong friends you make (perhaps including a spouse) to the mentors you take with you for life. Many of them are here among the faculty.

Today you should feel good about yourself, and your connection with NYIT should improve your own value and recognition. One of the pledges I make on behalf of the faculty, staff, administration, and trustees is to continue to increase the affective value of your NYIT degree.

You can also draw inspiration from past NYIT graduates. In so many fields -- from architecture to engineering, from the media to the medical world, from Wall Street to the nonprofit sector -- we see the success stories of entrepreneurs and leaders who sat in your seats during the past 49 Commencements.

You cannot envision the changes and opportunities that will shape your lives in the years ahead. And where there are vast unknowns, there are vast opportunities.

Be flexible… Be nimble…. Keep dreaming about the distant future, but prepare for the Near Tomorrow.

Congratulations to you, the NYIT Class of 2011.