A welcome to remember


Engineering majors begin their Case educations with advice, ice cream and cheers at the annual Freshman Welcome.

They had deciphered their class schedules. They had met their roommates. They had likely even memorized a few routes across the sprawling campus.

It was time for the Dean’s Freshman Welcome sponsored by the Case Alumni Association and the Division of Engineering Leadership and Professional Practices (DELPP). The grand greeting unfolded Tuesday afternoon, August 20—midway through Discovery Week--in Strosacker Auditorium on Case Quad.

There, Dean Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan delivered a message that heartened and thrilled his young audience. He told the first years “It’s a great time to be an engineer” and delivered facts that attested to their qualifications:

• The 469 engineering majors in the Class of 2023 represented 34% of a highly select freshman class
• Their average SAT score of 1450 was 20% higher than the university average
• Most had graduated at or near the top of their high school classes.
• The competition was about to increase, the dean warned, but so too were the opportunities and rewards. He advised them to seek a balance between work and play, between a rigorous academic experience and personal enrichment and growth.
• He promised that a dynamic profession awaited.

“Technology has been changing so fast, and it’s also changing at a more accelerated rate,” the dean said. “Engineering therefore is changing lives and it’s changing things fast.”

Technological advances have wrought marvels like the integrated circuit and the smartphone, but not without consequences—like climate change.

“We caused it,” he said. “We burned our fossil fuels and we didn’t really anticipate the consequences.”

But in that calamity lies opportunity, as engineers will be needed to devise solutions, he added.

The dean told the students to be bold and willing to take risks, a message echoed by alumnus Jim Kilmer ’00, MSE ’00, who used his theater background to spark outbursts of applause and laughter.

Kilmer, a favorite at the Freshman Welcome for his unexpected guises, walked onto the Strosacker stage in a bathrobe, which he later shed to reveal a second robe and, finally, a furry orange tiger costume.

The props helped to reinforce his message that appearances, like information, can be deceiving, and that an engineer needs to take calculated risks based on factual and scientific evidence.

After the greetings, the students filed out onto the Quad for free ice cream. There, they met their professors at signs that began to identify them as mechanical, chemical and biomedical engineers.

Many students lingered talking with the professors long after the ice cream was gone, making the most of the first steps in their journeys toward becoming Case engineers.