“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
I especially look forward to two times of the year on the academic calendar. One is Commencement. I like to remind people that graduation is associated with “commencement” for a good reason. It is the beginning of “life after IIT” and, if we have done our jobs well, our students start traveling down a road carrying with them the tools they need to be global citizens, contributors to society, and innovative thinkers.
The second time is the beginning of fall semester. I get particular pleasure in welcoming back our returning students and getting the chance to know those who are arriving on campus for the first time. This fall, enrollment and retention reached new heights. Retention, defined as the percentage of firstyear students who return for their second year, now stands at 93 percent—the fourth year in a row we have exceeded 90 percent. Our first-year, full-time undergraduate enrollment is the highest since 1981, and our total enrollment (graduate plus undergraduate) is the highest since 1968.
There is a renewed energy and spirit on campus, in part from having more students, but also because of the young men and women who have come to IIT from 94 countries. They bring with them new perspectives—and their presence adds to the cultural richness for which our university is known.
At this year’s international alumni gathering in Seoul [page 8], I was pleased to report that students from Asia, Africa, Europe, Central America, South America, as well as the United States and Canada, continue to follow in their footsteps—coming to Chicago and IIT for a world-class education. It was a trip that reaffirmed for me that the accomplishments of our international alumni have had a significant impact on our ability to attract talented students from around the world.
Members of the IIT community are also embarking on projects that extend far beyond our nation’s borders, improving the quality of life in major cities and re-shaping small villages in ways that are both beautiful and profound. Our students, faculty, and alumni are working and studying in countries around the world, taking with them the entrepreneurial drive and curiosity for which this university has always been known, while bringing home new appreciation for different perspectives and points of view.
When I look out from the stage at Commencement in the spring and walk across campus each fall, I remind myself not to take our diversity for granted. It is so much a part of who we are as a university that it is sometimes easy to forget that its impact on all of us is significant. The diversity of the IIT community helps ensure that we will continue to look at our world through a global lens, that we will remember to embrace cultural differences, and that we have a responsibility as citizens to continue to make our world a better and safer place for the generations that follow.
John L. Anderson