Welcome to the Fall 2022 semester. In the last ten days we have seen a very lively Orientation, enjoyed by our new Class of 2025! They have been welcomed to University College Roosevelt by means of the intensive RASA Orientation week, plus sessions by our tutors, as well as the Well-being team and our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee.

Today is the first day of class for many students. They will meet with well-rested professors with whom they will kick off 15 intensive weeks of teaching and learning. At the end of the semester, we will all most definitely need a new period of rest. That is part of the UCR tidal system.

During the Open Mic night last week I heard a hilarious sketch by experienced UCR students who, with the help of a good dose of irony and great speech-writing, made UCR sound like a disciplinary institution that is sure get everyone down all the time. We feel their pain — UCR can be a demanding place — but let us look at the bright side.

Great teaching professors and tutors, a student community characterized by an enormous sense of commitment and entrepreneurship, a committed Well-being team, exciting academic projects, great student-ownership of decisions regarding the quality and direction of the curriculum, study trips, excursions and an explosion of creative venues organized by RASA’s student committees and initiatives — of which Open Mic is only one. If UCR is getting you down, then one important reason for this is probably that it is such an enormous beehive of activity.

The secret to everyone’s success in the beehive (including my own) is to know what to say yes to, and to choose wisely. Whether the choice concerns your academic life, your personal life, or your social entrepreneurship and activism: choose commitments that give you energy rather than take it away from you. Choosing something, someone, or a social activity is saying ‘yes’ to the commitment involved.

As a Liberal Arts College we educate for freedom. Freedom is not the absence of commitments, on the contrary: it is about finding and becoming yourself in commitments you genuinely want. That is easier said than done, and I wish you a pleasant struggle until the end of times; if you have not yet done so, today is the best day to begin with making such choices.

So if you are here because your parents want you to take a certain study path, or you cling onto goals that you know you cannot reach anyway, just make sure that the choices you make are yours. Should that mean that you take an academic path that no-one had expected you to take but that inspires you more than anything else, then be our guest: we will be there to help you take it. Reach out to your tutor and discuss it with your fellow students and professors.

If choices in your personal life are draining you of energy rather than giving you energy, ask yourself if you ever really said ‘yes’ to what you think you should be engaged in. Discuss it with your friends, connect with the many self-organized groups at UCR about identity questions and relations, and know to find our counselor for advice. Being at our college is about growing as a person as much as it is about academics.

Finally, ask yourself what you can contribute to the UCR community and the wider world through your citizenship: as a member of our community you are expected to give back to the college community you flourish in. This may be by volunteering in Elliott, writing critical opinions about the Dean in Tabula Rasa, organizing social and academic events with a RASA committee, joining a student board and possibly UCR co-governance. This ‘civic’ aspect, again, is part of finding out what you enjoying doing and are good at as a member of our community, and any future community you will be part of.

None of this is going to be easy, but it will be fun as long as you say yes to the commitments you engage in! My final tip: reach out! UCR is full of people who want to help you in all this. But they need to know that you have questions, complaints, or suggestions. Together we are one community, and together we look forward to a smashing new semester. Enjoy!