Inauguration: Greetings from the Students

By Paul Y. Wang ‘24

Thank you all for joining us to celebrate this historic day for our college. And, on behalf of the student body, I am honored to welcome you, President Zaki, to our community.

A distinguished scholar and an incisive leader, a prolific researcher, a fantastic mom, and a loving mentor. A candid friend and trusted colleague and also so clearly an incredible educator. I am happy to share that our new president is a star in every way.

We students are not just excited that our new president is a woman, we’re incredibly excited that our new president is this amazing woman.

In that regard, please forgive me while I quote from everyone’s least-favorite website,

One Williams student writes of President Zaki, “Professor Zaki is brilliant and makes you appreciate cognitive psychology and other seemingly uninteresting topics whether you were planning to or not."

Another writes, “She doesn't give up until you REALLY understand and love the material right alongside her.”

And my personal favorite: “She loves what she does and cares deeply about her students. . . .she goes about teaching with an unusually good sense of humor.”

Brilliance, passion, commitment, care, and humor. Those are the same qualities we celebrate in each other here at Bowdoin. Those are the things I love most about my friends, about my professors, and about our amazing staff. President Zaki exemplifies the qualities we celebrate about our community.

The presidential search committee found someone deeply committed to the liberal arts. They found someone unafraid of difference or discomfort. Someone willing to entertain the questions that linger past a designated meeting time, past the confines of an office, of campus, or even of Maine. They found a candidate grounded in deep listening, perception, and dialogue—a person superlatively perfect for this job. Oh, and she’s a woman? And she’s funny and relatable? And she already lives in a wintery place arguably less exciting than Boston or New York? How incredibly lucky we are.

As I look out and see all of you here to celebrate, as I eat and laugh with my friends around a table in Thorne tonight—how incredibly lucky she is too.

While our world is growing increasingly polarized, Professor Zaki studies how and why we crave categorization. While our world is grappling with transformation from artificial intelligence, she studies just how complex—and how human—our brains are. While higher education faces attacks from all sides, she is a defender and accomplished practitioner of this incredible model—an education built on connections, fueled by genuine relationships, and brought to life with character, integrity, and a commitment to growth.

As students, we’re only on campus for four fleeting years. Yet still, in my short time, I am struck by how much I love this community, by how transformative my experience has been. In inaugurating President Zaki, we are entrusting her with stewarding a cherished institution and memories that we will hold close to heart. Yet, looking at President Zaki’s stellar resume, speaking with her about her unfaltering passion for Bowdoin and the liberal arts, and most importantly, seeing the lasting impression and ineffable excitement she has left on me and all my peers, I am so excited to trust her leadership completely.

At Bowdoin, we root for each other. President Zaki, on behalf of the student body: both now, and in the years to come, tackling issues big and small—we’re all rooting for you.

Thank you.