2019 New Student Convocation

Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz welcomes new students to campus at the 2019 New Student Convocation.

New Student Convocation held at Carmichael Arena on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sunday August 18, 2019. UNC head women's soccer coach, Anson Dorrance, was this year's featured speaker. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)


Welcome to the 2019 Convocation at America’s first public university – the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Thank you, Ashton Martin, our Student Body President. Now it’s my turn – Welcome new Tar Heels— the Class of 2023 and our new transfer, graduate, and professional students.

My name is Kevin Guskiewicz. I came here 24 years ago as a faculty member and since then, I’ve served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and now I am the interim Chancellor at Carolina. Every day, I love this place more and more. I am so excited for you to start your journey.

This summer, as a nation, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong becoming the first person to walk on the moon. You have seen the footage: the “one giant leap,” and Buzz Aldrin planting the flag on the moon’s surface. This incredible, awe-inspiring moment in our nation’s history took the hard work and support of thousands to make it happen.

Before they took off, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and 60 other astronauts came here to Carolina, to the Morehead Planetarium. They spent hundreds of hours training, preparing and most importantly, learning how to navigate the stars. They did that right here on campus. These astronauts didn’t know what they would face. You couldn’t just look at your compass or out the window if your technology failed. They needed a reference point to double and triple check against their instruments in the spacecraft, and they had to know the correct position of the stars at first glance. The stars enabled them to pilot their spacecraft accurately and successfully. Knowing how to navigate the stars prepared them for worst case scenarios and for the challenges that getting to the moon and back could bring.

This is our hope for you at Carolina: that you would learn to navigate the stars. We’re not going to pretend that we know what your path will look like, what challenges you will face. Our global economy is changing constantly, and we don’t know what your career will be in 5, 10, 50 years from now. 40% of U.S. jobs are in categories expected to shrink between now and 2030, and 25% of U.S. jobs will be threatened by automation in the coming decades. What will jobs look like in 2069, when you are preparing to retire? We don’t know what the future holds. But there are certain things we can prepare you for: those unchanging stars that will guide you when all else fails.

You will learn how to test a hypothesis, how to write, how to budget, how to think critically and how to work with each other. I hope you learn how to be a good friend and how to listen to others….what is right and what is wrong…and to always feel comfortable expressing yourself. We want you to be ready so that whether you are an artist or a business leader, a lawyer or a dentist, a scientist or a historian, or even an astronaut, you can get where you need to go.

Who’s going to teach all of this to you? For starters, our world-class faculty. Many of them are here today, and I hope you take advantage of every opportunity to work with them and get to know them. Faculty like Rich Superfine, who leads our Be A Maker spaces across campus; Danielle Christmas in the English Department researches how slavery and the Holocaust affect socio-economic discourse, and she will teach you how to write; Sarah Truel Roberts who teaches American Politics, emphasizing Congress and the Supreme Court; or Rita Balaban, an award-winning teacher of Econ101. See if you can get an invite to Michael McPhee’s Linda’s Fellowship, where he takes students to Linda’s over on Franklin St. to talk about poetry. Our faculty research surpassed $1 billion two years in a row, and students are an essential part of that research. Get involved, work on a project with them, and go to office hours.

I am envious of you, envious of the time you have to learn from our world class faculty. There are others who are also going to teach you how to navigate the stars. Look to your left, and look to your right. They are sitting right next to you. Your fellow classmates: they are your teammates, your fellow collaborators. You are going to work together because you need one another to navigate the stars, together. 19% of you are first generation college students and 77% were in the top 10 percent of your high school class. You are Carolina Covenant scholars, student-athletes, community servants and entrepreneurs. Together, you represent 97 North Carolina counties, 45 states (plus DC) and 50 countries.

You are diverse, and that diversity makes us better. We find better solutions to problems when we have different perspectives working together….and as I have already said – we expect you to be comfortable in expressing your opinions and beliefs, most likely founded on those different backgrounds and experiences. Each one of you is fascinating, with your own story to tell. Get to know as many of those stories as you can. I hope that right now, you are sitting next to someone you don’t know very well. I hope that you find a couple of best friends, the ones you will call at 2 am when you need someone to talk to, or who will stand next to you someday at your wedding. And I hope that you meet people you never would have met if it wasn’t for Carolina.

Your next four years are not going to be easy. Learning together, asking questions, and navigating the stars requires hard work, dedication and a lot of time. “Easy is boring.” Easy doesn’t land you on the moon. Easy is not why you came to Carolina. I speak for everyone on this campus when I say that we are so excited for you: excited to see what you achieve, how you will grow and the amazing ways you will work together to change the world.



In 1997, the famous UNC basketball coach Dean Smith was asked by a reporter about our reputation as a basketball school. “This is a women’s soccer school,” Smith told the reporter. “We’re just trying to keep up with them.” With 21 NCAA championships (the most of any women’s team in collegiate sports history), it would have been hard to argue with Coach Smith.

Anson Dorrance has been Head Coach since the team’s inception in 1979. For 40 years, he has built a true dynasty for women’s soccer here at Carolina. Last fall, he won his 1000th collegiate game. When I called to ask him to speak to you today, he was watching some of his former players in the World Cup, a U.S. team that featured 5 Tar Heels as well…and 2 on other teams. Thanks for taking my call coach, I should have known you were busy.

No one gives a better pre-game pep talk than Anson Dorrance. As you start the first quarter of your college career, I hope that you will listen to his wisdom and advice. His core values that he teaches his players each year are those stars that I was talking about, the things that don’t change and guide you where you need to go.

Please join me in welcoming Coach Anson Dorrance.



Welcome to your new home…Congratulations! It’s hard to believe but most of you won’t be together again until your graduation….though celebrations on Franklin Street come pretty close. In that time, I hope that Carolina becomes a place you will call home forever. I hope that as you learn to navigate the stars, you will make best friends and develop lifelong mentors. I hope you remember that “easy is boring.” And I know you will be ready for whatever the future holds. We are here to challenge you, support you and urge you on as we navigate the stars together. I can’t wait to get to know you during your time here.

Before we go… I want to say thank you to our New Student and Family Programs staff and student leaders who worked all summer to prepare for your first year. Also thank you to the student members of the Order of the Bell Tower and Tar Heel Beginning Board for greeting you, and thanks to the staff of Carmichael Arena for hosting us. And let’s have a big round of applause for all the people who have been working for months to make your start special:

  • The crew of welcome week,
  • The RA’s who brought you here,
  • The Carolina Thrift crew,
  • The Haulin’ Heels who helped you move in,
  • Our incredible dorm & parking staff,
  • And so many more….thank you!

Now, Tar Heel Voices, one of our acapella groups here on campus, will lead us in the alma mater. Please stay in place after we finish singing until the platform party and faculty recess… and then your RA’s will lead everyone out to Fall Fest together. Have fun and Go Heels!