August 27, 2023 | Office of the President

President Safa Zaki's Welcome to Class of 2027

Hello, Class of  2027!

It’s a great pleasure and an honor for me to be with you this afternoon and to welcome you officially to Bowdoin.

My husband, Huff, and I arrived in Brunswick in July. So, like many of you, I am new to Maine, and like many of you, I am also just getting to know Bowdoin. What I’ve found so far is a vibrant and openhearted community, a college that is alive with possibilities, and a genuine warmth and generosity. I know that you will find the same.

I have to say that I feel a particular connection to all of you, as we start our journeys at Bowdoin together. I think back to last winter and spring, when you and I were deciding whether to come here, and I wonder if we were drawn to this special place for similar reasons. These reasons probably include the obvious ones: the opportunity to work with an amazing staff and a world-renowned faculty; the opportunity to live with and learn from your inspiring peers; the opportunity to participate in a wide range of co-curricular activities; and the opportunity to live and work surrounded by the natural beauty of this campus and this place in the world, this state of Maine; Or maybe you heard about the food.

But I imagine that like me, you were also drawn here by a more intangible quality, one that isn’t about the amazing resources, opportunities, and programs that Bowdoin offers its students; but that is instead about Bowdoin’s core value: the deep belief that we all have an obligation to serve the common good. That value, articulated at Bowdoin’s founding, is what ultimately drew me to Bowdoin, and I suspect it’s what also attracted many of you.

In fact I hear it reflected in the things you’ve already said to me about the trips you’ve taken and the things that youv’e been doing over the summer.

I also imagine you are feeling some of the same anxieties I felt in making this big move. Like many of you, I have spent many years in a place that had become home—I knew everyone, and I understood the rules and the culture. Change—even change that we are excited about—is scary, and this transition won’t be without challenges or even moments of failure. You do not need to sit alone with those challenges and those moments.

I want you to know that you’ve landed in a special place. There are a lot of people here—professors, staff, coaches, classmates (and me!)—who are cheering for you, and who are working hard to help you succeed and thrive. My hope for you is that you will take advantage of everything Bowdoin has to offer you, that you have some fun, that you will ask for help when you need it, and that you will offer help when you can—that you will continue the Bowdoin commitment to build a community dedicated to the common good.

Over the next four years, you will have the opportunity to stretch yourselves and to build on your passions and discover new ones. You will learn to debate, to question, to analyze, to communicate clearly and convincingly, and you will be encouraged to do all of this collaboratively as part of a learning community.

As you might imagine, given my background as a scholar and teacher, I am deeply committed to this model of education, and I know from my own experience, from that of my own children, and from the students with whom I’ve worked, that the next four years will have an enormous positive impact on your lives. I know that without a doubt. You will remember this time. Research in my field suggests that you will remember this time more than any other.

From my initial conversations with alumni, it is clear that generations of Bowdoin graduates have been inspired by what they learned from a faculty member here and also from what they gained from a coach or another staff member or from their fellow students.

But I also know, as a faculty member and as a former dean of faculty, that faculty, coaches, and staff members are also inspired and transformed by what they learn from you. So, bring your whole selves.

As Claudia described, all of you are here because you belong here. You are immensely capable students who have succeeded at the highest levels, and you are now at Bowdoin together. We are so glad you are here.

I’ve had a look at the impressive orientation schedule that a group of returning students and staff in student affairs has pulled together for you. You’re going to be busy, and you’re also going to get a sense of Bowdoin’s values and traditions. It may seem overwhelming at the start—believe me, I know! But you will soon settle in and be on your way.

There are a lot of people at the College who are eager to know you. I am one of those people, so don’t be surprised if I sit down next to you in the dining hall or stop to speak to you on the Quad. I am excited and eager to meet you individually and in groups and to get to know you. To me, that is the very best part of the job!

With that, let me say how thrilled I am to be here with you as you and I start this journey together.

Welcome to Bowdoin!