Prepared text of sophomore Jenna Nicholas’ speech at Convocation

Jenna Nicholas

Following is the text of sophomore Jenna Nicholas' Convocation speech, as prepared for delivery on Sept. 15, 2009:

Welcome to the Class of 2013, transfer students and your families.

This time last year I was sitting where you are now and was completely overwhelmed by all of the possibilities that lay ahead of me.

I'm sure you have spent a lot of time imagining what your life will be like at Stanford. I know I did.

I can assure you that every opportunity you can possibly imagine is open to you and Stanford will be there to support you every step of the way.

Me, I wanted to try it all – from delving into the classical wisdoms of Plato and Aristotle to the exciting world of organizational management, from the marching band to cha-cha dancing and Brazilian martial arts. You name it, I wanted to do it.

As it happened, I discovered that music and dancing are not natural talents of mine. But it was fun anyway!

Over the year I set myself various challenges, and it has been incredible how opportunities have presented themselves. I kept in mind what David Starr Jordan, the first president of Stanford said, "Whatever you attempt, go at it with spirit."

I wanted to do a graduate class in global entrepreneurial marketing. I did.

I wanted to have lunch with a philanthro-capitalist who spoke at Stanford and supports stem cell research and clean energy. I did and was even offered an internship.

I wanted to dress up as a banana. I did.

I am not alone!

Some of my friends have done amazing things such as row in the Olympics, help AIDS victims in Africa and build solar cars and rockets.

For those of you who have not yet found your passion, somewhere along the way, you will. Just keep your eyes open, remain positive, pace yourself and be prepared to step beyond your comfort zone.

As a member of the Baha'i faith, I have always been passionate about public service. This passion has expanded through my discovery of social entrepreneurship.

This past year I helped to initiate a community service group, which engages Stanford students in running moral education classes for local middle schools. The schools were receptive to this initiative and we have been empowered by the process.

I also worked on a web-based project, called the U-Movement, that assists with the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals such as the eradication of poverty and the improvement of healthcare and education. We managed to get course credit, Google engineers to build our prototype, a presentation to the UN secretary general and Bono to agree to perform at our launch – all in the space of two months. This is Stanford for you!

However, Stanford is not just great here at the Farm. This past summer, Stanford initiated a microfinance education project in Beijing which addresses a significant need of migrant workers. I was fortunate to take part in it.

You will have heard lots of stories about Stanford; some will be true and others just myths. I'd been told constantly before I arrived how great the Stanford professors were. However, nothing prepared me for how special they really are. You can just turn up during office hours and you'll be welcomed with a smile!

There was one professor in particular I really wanted to do research for, so I emailed him every few days for two weeks to remind him that he really wanted to hire me. He eventually agreed.

Last and most importantly: Remember that at no time are you alone. You will make the most exceptional friendships here. Whoever put me with my roommate did a wonderful job. I have learned through her the value of being there for somebody and having someone there for me. No matter what your interests are, you will find a fellow student or student group to connect with.

This is a great place to work hard, play hard and serve.

Good luck and enjoy every moment of it. It will go by faster than you think.

Thank you.