Duke 2020 Convocation: Christoph Guttentag, Dean of Undergraduate Students

Christoph Guttentag welcomes the Class of 2024 during the virtual convocation.
Christoph Guttentag welcomes the Class of 2024 during the virtual convocation.

Good morning, and to the Class of 2024—the memorable class of 2024—I want to be among the first to say, “Welcome—we’re glad to have you join us, and to join each other at Duke.” 
Each year I have the privilege of presenting the entering class to the university community. This year you represent the culmination of a process that, while always challenging and stressful, started out more or less normally, and ended like nothing we’ve ever seen before. So I think I can safely say that your senior year at Duke will be a lot more enjoyable than your senior year in high school.
In the coming weeks and months I expect many people will tell you how unique you are, and how different your start to college is than the classes that preceded you. 

And that’s true…but I’d like to talk for a minute about the ways in which you’re not unlike the Duke classes that came before you. 
You’re a diverse group, very much like our other classes. You come to us from 58 countries, 47 states, 822 cities and towns; a third of you are the only ones from your hometowns to be here, and over half of you are students of color. And, as Duke students tend to be, you’re an unusually and deeply talented group, in both your academic and your extracurricular accomplishments. So when my colleagues in the Admissions Office read your applications, we were struck by how much you managed to squeeze into a day, or into a week—but honestly, we were more struck by how much things mattered to you. The secret to your admission wasn’t in your grades, or test scores, or your lists of activities. It was in your ability to understand what there is in the world that’s important to you, and then to act on it. You made a difference, in your school, or in your community, or maybe right in your family. It’s that ability and that inclination to make a difference that’s a defining characteristic of Duke students, and like every class before you, you have that in abundance, individually and collectively.
I also want to mention your resilience. Now, resilience is one of those words that’s become popular in higher education recently. And it’s one of those qualities we all want to have, but we’re not always thrilled when we have to demonstrate it. We were looking for resilience when we read your applications, and we saw plenty of evidence of it, but to be honest, when we admitted you, we didn’t expect that this many of you would have to be this resilient, this soon. But you’ve done great so far, and you’ve come to a place where the challenges will be real, but the support is greater. 
So I’d like to finish with this thought. Duke students are legendary for how they’re supportive of each other. Your classmates will push you and challenge you, and they’ll also be there to help you every step of the way. We saw that empathy and kindness in you, the same way we saw your resilience, and your ability to make a difference. That’s why you belong here, the way every student who has preceded you belonged here. You all followed different paths, but it’s led you all to the same place, right here. My colleagues at Duke and I are proud of what you’ve done to earn your spot here, and we’re going to be especially proud of all you do this year and the rest of your time at Duke. 
So it gives me great pleasure to present to my colleagues at Duke, to President Price, and to the entire Duke community, the talented, engaged, kind, and resilient Duke Class of 2024.
Thank you.