Prepared remarks of 'Finding Your Place' by graduate student Jordan Shapiro, BS '15, at Opening Convocation Ceremony on Sept. 15, 2015
Has anyone seen my keys? I think they were in the first row of the second section – right over there? Maybe under one of the seats or in the bushes? No? I just lost them here about … well, about four years ago today.
Imagine that: It was my first day on campus after years of just dreaming about attending Stanford and I started it all off with a rookie mistake. I remember sulking through my Convocation, certain that I would never find my way back into my residence hall, let alone my place at Stanford.
But finding your place here is so much more than holding on to the keychain in your pocket. It's about holding on to your core values while letting go of your inhibitions just enough to explore the expansive resources all around you. Over the next years, Stanford will provide you the opportunity of a lifetime – the opportunity to forge your unique path.
My first lesson in forging my own path was learning that I didn't need to have a clear plan to be happy. I applied to Stanford convinced that I was a "combiner," someone who would always be intrigued by the connections between different studies. But realizing that goal freshman year was more difficult than I had expected. I struggled to find my interdisciplinary muse and was interested in so many fields that I could not determine what made me truly passionate. I ended up realizing that my indecision could be an asset instead of a burden, and so I started to design an interdisciplinary track toward the bioengineering major.
But it wasn't until later in my Stanford career that I learned another important lesson: Being myself at Stanford would require me to take risks and be vulnerable. And so, I decided to get outside of my comfort zone by spending time abroad. My experiences with Stanford's programs in Beijing, Madagascar, Madrid and Tasmania opened my eyes to appreciate the vast world around me. I studied Chinese language, art history, island biogeography and more. And, by being in such different contexts, I started to narrow in on who I was. I had gone from a lost freshman to Jordan, the globally focused key-losing bioengineer.
Taking these risks encouraged me to continue trying new things throughout my Stanford career. I went on to explore everything from theater and classics to journalism and student government. I was rapidly compiling and combining my seemingly disparate interests and started to find fields that inspired me to want to change the world. My curiosity drove me to become a student of the Silicon Valley through my master's program in entrepreneurship. The more I expanded my academic interests, the more I felt like I was contributing, while staying true to the "combiner" I had always tried to be.
Although all of this exploration confused my advisors, mentors and parents, it was really what made me feel like I had finally found my place here at Stanford. You see, I might never be the best engineer, the best actor or the best Chinese speaker, but I can imagine that I'm the only student in Stanford's history to have the exact combination of interests that makes me who I am today. In other words, the thing that each and every one of us can be the best at is being our authentic self.
While for me that meant being a theater-obsessed, entrepreneurially minded, globally focused, key-losing bioengineer, we all tread our own paths here at Stanford. You started yours the first time you stepped foot onto campus. Whether your path be muddled or clear, busy or simplistic, full of classes or hangouts or meetings or workouts, it will most certainly be unique. You will have your personal take on Stanford.
So to those of you who did lose your keys today – and yes, there's always at least one of you – know that Convocation is just the start to a long journey of holding on to some things and letting go of others.
Class of 2019 and transfers, it's time to trust yourselves, take the risk and discover all of the opportunities that are offered here in your new home. Welcome to the Farm.