Welcome students!

Another school year begins

It’s hard to believe that this year’s was my 11th orientation, and yet, each year, as I look at the students ready for the beginning of (or, for some, the next step of ) their public health journeys, it all seems wonderfully fresh and new.

Sunday night, after the new student convocation, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a sea of students and felt their energy, excitement and enthusiasm. Collectively, our students are such a powerful force for good in the world.

Mary Cooper, BSPH, a 2012 environmental sciences and engineering alumna and former UNC student government president, was the convocation speaker. She did a terrific job. Mary acknowledged that most new students, as she was, are at least a little afraid of what lies ahead. Embracing that fear and moving forward is the best way to confront it. She also gave new students tips on how to engage and make things happen. [See excerpt from her remarks below.] All great advice.

My own advice is that students should not be afraid to seek and accept help—or to offer it. I’ve watched people who succeed as staff and faculty members and students; generally, they understand the importance of getting and giving help, of not being afraid to have their work critiqued and of being part of a team in which their work is peer-reviewed. We all need a little help from our friends, and I’ve found over the years that it’s the best way to improve our own thinking and work. Happy new year. Barbara

From Mary Cooper’s remarks at UNC’s 2015 convocation for new students
cooper, mary -  convocation 2015
Mary Cooper, BSPH ’12, was the featured speaker during Sunday night’s convocation, marking the first time a faculty member did not deliver the featured speech.
UNC taught me that when I have an idea, I need to build a team and then we can chase after it and make it happen. There will be people who say ‘no’ or say that you can’t, in which case it should fuel the fire to really make sure it happens.
For me, that started when I heard of the idea of HOPE Gardens. I quickly joined that team and suddenly, there was a garden on Homestead Road that was integrating the community, students and the homeless population. And it continued when I sat down with the team to start the Student Enrichment Fund, a scholarship fund designed to fund anyone to go out and learn, explore, and bring knowledge back to Chapel Hill.
These experiences, and the ideas that my friends and I chased, also taught me the value of community. Chapel Hill has so many communities within it. It just takes never ever giving up to find your community—or creating your own. At the end of the day, it’s the people sitting around you tonight and the UNC grads you might even meet post-graduation, that will inspire you, will always stand and sing ‘Hark the Sound!’ at the end of every game, and will make this place what it is.


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