President Edward Guiliano addresses graduates at NYIT's 52nd annual Commencement on May 19, 2013, at NYIT's Old Westbury campus.
Good morning – welcome. Congratulations, Class of 2013!
Congratulations on earning your degree. Its value will only grow.
You’re an impressive group. Our 3,215 graduates come from throughout America and more than 75 countries. Fifty-two percent have earned bachelor’s degrees, and 48 percent have earned advanced degrees.
You come from the Bronx, Bahrain, and Babylon, from Nanjing, Nepal, and New Jersey. Today you all have in common the life experience of NYIT Old Westbury … and yes, the Long Island Expressway.
In this commencement address I will share some thoughts on decision-making, technology, the value of higher education – especially an NYIT education – and on not getting too caught up in present-day thinking.
Author and art collector Gertrude Stein observed, “There are no straight lines in nature.” Something Einstein and other scientists proved. Well, there aren’t any in life either, though we sometimes move in what seem like straight lines in our spherical world.
As someone who once sat where you are sitting – a few years ago – I can tell you how surprising and rewarding a path my education has forged. I certainly did not major in university administration. My education taught me the value of experiencing this vast world, with its rich and endless surprises, beyond any straight path I might have envisioned. And it taught me what NYIT has taught you: To become culturally and intellectually savvy, able to integrate ideas from many sources. And to not fear change, but embrace it.
On one of my trips criss-crossing continents, I met a French woman on a bus in Istanbul. She became my wife and life's companion. She’d agree: We never could have predicted what we’d achieve. If we’d followed a straight line, we’d be somewhere much less interesting.
On another trip many years ago, I traveled that famed Long Island Expressway. I turned off to visit NYIT for the first time to interview for a position that two days earlier I didn’t know existed. Quite a turn…I never left…and my life was never the same. I stand here proud of you, of our faculty and staff, and what we have done together at this fine institution to make thousands of people’s lives better. I am proud of this university. I trust you are, as well, and we’ll continue to be here working, building pride in NYIT on behalf of the 95,000 alumni in some 150 nations that you are joining today.
Your journey at NYIT has surely taken a few surprise turns; you’ve overcome hardship and challenge, doubt and fear, the lingering recession, and for our New York students, even Hurricane Sandy.
Here at NYIT, Technology is our last name. It will shape the future in powerful and momentous ways. Our world now has the first universal network ever. Some six billion people own cell phones. And, I suppose, can call you or me and share their latest scores on Words with Friends.
But that’s old news. Soon everyone will upgrade to smartphones. So six billion people will have them, except it will be seven billion by then and everyone will be on the Internet.
The world has never been so interconnected nor its citizens so dependent upon each other. We live and work in an increasingly global digital economy, and the butterfly effect of chaos theory in Old Westbury or India or Brazil can have a far-reaching economic and environmental impact.
One very special element of NYIT is our extraordinary diversity. In every field of study, in our hallways and classrooms, online and in laboratories, on Central Park’s playing fields and on Old Westbury’s synthetic turf, you have experienced the world, opened your mind, and learned to be global citizens.
Take medicine and our smartphone example. With smartphones in the hands of medical professionals, they can track little-known serious diseases worldwide and help treat and prevent them wherever they occur. One day you may use these devices to help eliminate diseases.
Apple is developing a smart watch and some people wonder why. Well, it lies right on your skin. It could monitor vital signs like heartbeat, 24/7. It could save lives. And, I’ve heard, it can also tell time. When you put computer intelligence in new places, it does new and powerful things. And the future changes.
Even right now, there are almost two million apps for smartphones, including one for NYIT and one for the Campus Slate, our student newspaper. In 2013 alone, apps are predicted to be downloaded 56 billion times. That’s eight downloads for every person on earth. And yet—5 billion people still haven’t upgraded to smartphones. So even greater change is coming.
We can only guess what smart devices will be like in 10 years. But it’s safe to say they will only get … smarter? You are prepared for this fast-evolving world.
Today, you graduate from an institution that has long excelled at applications-oriented research. We find solutions to problems facing the world. We receive funding from sources like the NSF, NIH, the Defense Department, the State of New York, and various private foundations.
A grant is bringing us several Nao humanoid robots. They’re about two feet tall. Very advanced—a robot you’d expect to see in top engineering programs like ours. But, we are looking at using this holistically; our faculty will apply its technology across many fields of study, in breakthrough interdisciplinary ways not seen before. Perhaps we will hire our robots in the admissions office.
The list of projects we’re undertaking to address basic challenges to world prosperity goes on…
As new graduates at the frontlines of science and industry, you can see change coming and you handle it better. You make change. And that’s exciting.
And that’s one of the many reasons university degrees are more valuable than ever.
Back in 1976, Newsweek ran a cover with the big headline: “Who Needs College?”
To start with, the person who wrote that headline had a degree. Newsweek didn’t hire writer-editors without college degrees. Today, Newsweek is only online, because of technology. Its employees, however, still need college degrees.
In 1976, college graduates earned 55 percent more than high school graduates. Today, you earn at least 85 percent more over a lifetime. Pretty impressive.
The Brookings Institute noted recently that despite the challenging upfront costs, the return on investment on a college degree remains high. They monetized it, saying the benefits of a four-year degree were equivalent to an investment returning 15.2 percent, year after year. And those with master’s or professional degrees will earn more than that.
At this point, let me share a phrase that you’ll soon know if you don’t already. It’s what investment advisors are obligated to state: “past performance is not an indicator of future results.” So, who knows? That 15.2 could be 22.5 percent. I certainly believe in the great return on investment a top education provides. And just this month in a national study, NYIT was ranked in the top 10 percent of the thousands of colleges and universities in America with regard to the return on your investment. And while I am using examples from America today, the fundamental truths and trends I am citing are global, resonating comparably in most nations around the globe.
Your degree will matter in other ways. Tales of a fountain of youth go back to Herodotus, and sadly we’ve never located it. Higher education, though, is better than Botox. You will live nine years longer than the average high school graduate.
That’s important to remember in these days of high costs, as I use a “nasty” four-letter word, DEBT, as in college loans. When I was born, my life expectancy – or the average for males in America – was 66.5 years. But, because I am alive today, I have more than a 50 percent chance of living beyond 85. When I graduated from college, 65 was the widely accepted retirement age. I have a friend who just changed her retirement expectation. “I don’t want to be retired for 30 years,” she remarked.
I share this because college loans are not as nasty as you read about. America, as great as it is, has been built on debt, education, hard work, and the hope for a brighter future. America’s lifestyle and economy relied on you and me borrowing to buy a home or a car. All accepted practices – and practical for most. So is borrowing for college. You might not feel great for a few years or be able to buy a new car or home as soon as you want. And in an economy transitioning out of a recession, your next – and for some first real – job might not be all you desire. But try to think longer term than the next five or 10 years—after all, you just added nine years to your life. Looking back 25 years from now, your world will seem very different, your yeoman years a distant memory, and because the greatest investment you will ever make is in higher education, you will be comparatively well off.
Recent high school graduates face a scary prospect. Their unemployment rate is 24 percent. According to the April Labor Department report, however, the unemployment rate among college graduates is just 3.9 percent. NYIT’s students go on to great success. For example, this year’s College of Osteopathic Medicine class has already achieved a 99 percent match rate. They are employed as physicians. Congratulations.
You, NYIT’s Class of 2013, are eminently employable. You are superbly global, and you know the value of entrepreneurship. Of the 10 fastest-growing occupations today, seven demand a postsecondary degree—including the health care-related fields and professional and business services many of you are entering. Companies crave hires like you more than ever. Just ask our alumni.
At NYIT, you came across ideas you’d never see on your own. Consider our students who competed recently alongside M.B.A. and Ph.D.-level students at the New York Regional Business Plan Competition. Ultimately, they emerged a state-wide winner.
Their business, Home-two-oh, involves a simple, yet clever way to make a roof from used water bottles. NYIT professors and students invented this.
Your interdisciplinary skills will catch attention as well, and you know how to build on those skills. You know how to learn and what to learn. So as the world changes, you’ll adapt. And you’ll rise higher.
We don’t know the careers you may ultimately follow, and you probably don’t either. They may not exist yet. But the critical competencies you’ll need are: good thinking, up-to-date knowledge, global awareness, teamwork, and adaptability. In a survey released by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 93 percent of employers agreed that "a candidate's demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major." You are well-prepared, and you embody connectedness.
NYIT embodies connectedness, too.
We are like a city spread out over the planet. Innovation has always come from cities, where well-educated people meet, talk, and spin out ideas. We’re also connected across time, with our focus on the future. We are a network. No one moves in a straight line in a network; you move from one node to the next. You turn corners and often find surprises. Wrong turns can lead to the right endings. The more connections you have, the more paths open up and the richer your life becomes. NYIT has given you a wealth of these connections.
As you go out to experience the world’s joys and face its challenges, I welcome you to come back and use our resources for life. That’s another value of an NYIT degree.
We’re on parallel tracks – for the long term. Even though the tracks are not straight lines. We hope these tracks intersect – often.
In closing, let me share a few words I’ve offered to graduates before you.
When you leave here today, always remember to: Think deeply, speak gently, love much, laugh often, work hard, give freely — especially to NYIT — pay promptly … and be kind.