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Words of Welcome to Students During Orientation Week

Advice and encouragement to students from across the university

Rev. Luke Powery:

So what’s next?

The Class of 2023, as well as new graduate and professional students, have settled in but many are probably wondering what the next few years holds for them at Duke.

One key element of Orientation Week is, as its name implies, getting students going in the right direction. Part of that is feeling welcomed and at home here on campus. Part is learning how to put your best foot forward, regardless of your backgrounds and previous experiences.

Below is a selection of the many words of welcome delivered this week by faculty, administrators and students alike to various student groups, all designed to help them thrive in their Duke experience.


Class of 2023 Undergraduate Convocation

President Vincent Price

“Here before you at Duke, along that imaginary line that traces the road between East Campus and West, an entire universe of knowledge awaits your exploration. So, brave explorers in the class of 2023, may the next four years take you on a remarkable journey of discovery that begins now. Congratulations, and welcome.”

(For the full speech, click here.)


Christoph Guttentag:

Dean of Admissions Christoph Guttentag

“My staff and I had the pleasure of helping with move-in and it represents some of what we love so much about Duke. The enthusiasm, the warmth, the careful planning and the spontaneous celebrations. And most important, the efforts of so many people coming together simply to help other people who need it. That sense of community is a part of what makes Duke special and now you’re a part of that community too. ...

“Being a real Duke student is about growing and changing and helping each other. We chose you because you showed us you are able and willing and ready. Every one of you has earned your place here. Don’t lose your nerve. It won’t always be easy but it will be great.

“It gives me great pleasure to present to [the deans], to President Price and to our university community the class that will succeed and make us proud in ways that we—and they—can’t even imagine. The spectacular class of 2023.”


Luke Powery, dean of Duke Chapel

“On this new day create something so new that even in a fractured world this class of 2023 would be inducted into the hall of fame of humanity because they knew what meant to learn, live, and love in community.”


DSG President Liv McKinney

“If my plan had worked out as I hoped three years ago, I would have missed out on some of the best and most meaningful moments of my life at Duke.

“The thing about Duke is that if you’re lucky your next four years won’t go to plan at all. … And more likely than not, you’ll fail at something. As a result you’ll grow in ways you never thought possible.

“Class of 2023 I can’t wait to see you define your own successes here. I can’t wait to see how your plans develop into more you ever could have imagined and how you grow as a result of this and how our campus evolves with you now here.


Undergraduate Education

Gary Bennett, Dean of Undergraduate Education


Pratt School of Engineering

Ravi Bellamkonda, Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering

"Congratulations, and welcome to Duke! You are home.  The Duke family is your family, and it’s a tight family.  You will make friends here who will be a part of your life for a long time—and those friendships extend to those who have gone before and those who will come after.

“We will do all we can to ensure your success. In fact, I believe Duke is only successful when all of Duke is rooting for each member of Duke’s family!

"We will do all we can to help you become whoever it is that you want to become--and I have no doubt that we’ll love the world that you will create through your actions and thought.”


Graduate and Professional School Convocation

Jim Coleman, John S. Bradway Professor of the Practice of Law

“Some of you may have a notion that you need to determine while at Duke precisely how your career should unfold, that to be a successful doctor, or engineer, or lawyer, you must perform neurosurgery at major hospitals, or build tall buildings, or lead major law firms.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  The role of Duke’s graduate and professional schools is to prepare you to be an excellent practitioner, whatever path you follow.  You can pursue justice and fairness in the world wherever your path leads.”

(For the full speech, click here.)


Sanford School Graduate School Orientation

Judith Kelley, Dean of Sanford School of Public Policy

“Our incoming graduate students are the future of policy - and the future of our world. In this increasingly complex environment, public policy research and education is more valuable than ever before. Our programs transcend disciplinary boundaries and are vital to the most pressing issues that require policy solutions – inequality, health, environment, human rights, security and more. 

“At the Sanford School of Public Policy, our students pursue innovative policy solutions to create positive change in the world. We are proud of them already for their many accomplishments, and we know that their degrees will propel them forward to help our world.” 

Valerie Ashby: I want to reassure you that we are ready for your children. We have them. We’ve chosen them. We’re ready for them. There’s nothing that’s going to happen to them that we can’t handle. So you can breathe

Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Valerie Ashby, Dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, speaking to parents and family members in Page Auditorium

“If you are worried, anxious, concerned, sad, in denial – I want to reassure you that we are ready for your children. We have them. We’ve chosen them. We’re ready for them. So you can breathe.”

“There will be moments that (students) question. Reassure them that they belong here. Tell them things like this: we chose them not because they’re perfect but because they are perfectly imperfect. We chose them because they’re kind and they’re going to help us up our game intellectually and in service to the world.”

“We want them to leave room in their schedules to have relationships. If they don’t take the time to get to know someone different than who they are, they’ve missed the Duke experience.”


Jim Roberts, Fred W. Shaffer Professor of Economics

“You may have heard this metaphor: Getting a liberal arts education is like doing pushups for your brain. It’s also about doing pullups and squats and a whole lot of cardio. And that’s a really good thing. My role is trying to help students understand how much they are capable of – how many pushups they can do. It’s my job to help them understand how far they can go.”

“I design my courses to be really, really challenging. I tell students, ‘it’s OK’…because this is such a safe and risk-free environment to try something hard. The downsides are so minimal compared to the possible upsides. (For instance), the benefits of trying a course outside your major are so much greater than the downside that you may not love it.”


Madeline “Mac” Gagné, junior mathematics major

“If you want to know what your students are thinking, it’s probably some mix of ‘Wow this place is huge. Look at all this food. And I’m not crying, you’re crying.’”

“A lot of what I needed to learn at Duke…was that it’s OK to ask for help. It’s something that is necessary for success.”


The welcomes also included social media messages.  Here are covers of Instagram welcomes to law and Duke-NUS students. School of Medicine Orientation

Dr. Mary Klotman, Dean of the School of Medicine

“People often ask me about my job. I tell them the only thing I am certain about is that everything is always changing.  And nowhere is change more prevalent than in healthcare.”

“In a career that has in the past been more traditional and slow to evolve, change is upon us:

A focus on health rather than medicine; Patient-centered care; Shared decision-making; Technology to improve health (use it wisely); Data science – using determinants of health beyond EMR to improve care; interprofessional care – working as teams as never before; and a focus on value.”

“And while change can be challenging and often can stressful, it offers tremendous opportunity. So, my message to you tonight is simple – although perhaps not simply done. Drive change for good. You have this power, and this can be your generation’s legacy. Embrace it!”


Welcome for Student Veterans

US Rep. Mike Levin, Duke alumnus


Duke Kunshan University

Vincent Price, President of Duke University (video message)


For All Students!