As the sound of bagpipes pierced the air and a mild drizzle set in, the class of 2015 and other incoming students were called together to begin the 248th school year. After entering campus through the Van Wickle Gates, the first-year class filed onto the Main Green, awaiting welcoming remarks from President Ruth Simmons and Provost Mark Schlissel P'15.
Simmons encouraged the 1507-person first-year class to take advantage of the diversity of their classmates.
"This wealth of identities and narratives — they underline the miracle of being in a learning environment like Brown," she said.
But she cautioned that it is "no small thing to be able to apprehend what matters in life," and urged students to "search deeply for examples of courage and fortitude, faith and loyalty, sacrifice and benevolence, brilliance and know-how, patience and forgiveness."
Simmons also highlighted the changes to campus that incoming students would be able to enjoy, including the new Warren Alpert Medical School building, the recently renovated Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center and the Granoff Center for Creative Arts, as well as continuing projects like the Nelson Center for Athletics, the Metcalf Chemistry and Research Laboraties, the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center and the Jonathan Nelson '77 Fitness Center.
Simmons encouraged students to take the time to say a "simple thanks" to members of the Brown and Providence communities.
"You are surrounded by people who care about your success," she said. "I hope you will have the wisdom to take the time to acknowledge their help."
Schlissel gave the Convocation address to the audience of faculty and new undergraduate, graduate and medical students. He pointed out that he is also beginning his first semester at Brown and offered advice on how to face the coming years.
"The literal substance of what we learn in college is rarely as important as you might think," Schlissel said, drawing on his experience as a biochemistry undergraduate. Much of that "literal substance" was eventually "superseded by new facts," he said, while greater lessons about life and learning remain true.
"I learned how to seek out what I wanted to know, and seek out a desired level of understanding," he said.
Schlissel encouraged first-years to study topics in both the humanities and the sciences, emphasizing the real-world interrelatedness of the two.
Convocation marks the fourth day of a nine-day orientation schedule for first years. Colby Jenkins '12, co-chair of the Orientation Welcoming Committee, said several orientation events this year have been "revamped" from last year.
The committee added a tie-dye event and pickup sports and expanded the traditional ice cream social to encompass the entire Campus Center, with additional food and activities, like showings of Glee and Pictionary games.
"We've known for years that the ice cream social was awkward," Jenkins said.
The improvements have gone over "very well," among both first-years and upperclassmen who sneak into the events, he said. Over 1,200 students attended the annual first-year dance.
Jenkins said the welcoming committee hopes its role in orientation helps first-years overcome their anxiety about making friends in the coming year. "These first two weeks really shape their friendships and shape their expectations of the years to come," he said.
Karla Tytus '15 said that after Simmons' welcome, her sense of being at Brown was "a different level of realization."
"It just got real," she said.
Enedina Martinez '15 arrived nine days ago for Excellence at Brown and said she has been "absolutely loving it."
"I love how welcoming and accommodating President Simmons is to the class of 2015," she said. "I feel like we've been invited to be a part of a big family."
A previous version of this article misquoted Enedina Martinez ’15. She said, “I love how welcoming and accommodating President Simmons is to the class of 2015,” not “to the middle class.” The Herald regrets the error.