Welcome to the University of Florida! I applaud your decision to come to UF, and I am confident you will have a rich and memorable experience here.
We pride ourselves on offering a world-class education while also giving students the opportunity for a life-changing college experience. You will take classes from accomplished faculty members, many among the top scholars and scientists in their fields. You will also have the chance to participate in serious research and scholarship, study abroad, pursue any number of sports or recreational activities, join a vibrant student government or volunteer for a variety of timely causes and worthy organizations.
With your excellent work in high school, you earned your place at Florida's best university - and one of the largest, most diverse and most comprehensive universities in the country. I advise you to begin your time here with an open mind. This experience may be your best opportunity to encounter new ideas, embrace new experiences, and, I hope, discover your life's calling.
In education, in recreation, in travel, you have an ocean of possibilities at UF:
-More than 100 undergraduate degree programs and 200 graduate programs or personally customized majors that combine two or more disciplines.
-Club or intramural sports from volleyball to Ultimate Frisbee to soccer, from cricket to kendo to sailing, from ping-pong to bowling to water polo.
-More than 900 student clubs and organizations devoted to cultural, political, artistic, religious, athletic and scholarly pursuits - the Argentine Tango Club, University Habitat for Humanity, Dance Marathon and more.
-Dozens of study-abroad programs that send students to countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and elsewhere around the world.
-A campus rich with possibilities for study and play, from nine libraries to the state-of-the-art Southwest Recreation Center to the beautiful Lake Alice and nearby Lake Wauburg.
For those of you in the physical and social sciences, I also encourage you to get involved in research through, for example, the University Scholars Program. If you are pursuing a liberal arts degree, seek to work one-on-one with faculty members on scholarly projects. The earlier you begin your careers as researchers, scholars and professionals, the earlier you will succeed in graduate school or in fields outside the university.
Two pieces of immediate practical advice: As you seek to become more familiar with campus this week, try UF Mobile Web, the university's new app for mobile devices. You can find an interactive map, a calendar, a bus locator and other features by accessing the app at m.ufl.edu. I would also ask you to check out the newly launched initiative "U Matter, We Care," which encourages everyone to assist any students who may be in need of help or support. More information is available at www.umatter.ufl.edu.
As our newest students, you have an incredible experience ahead of you here. Make the most of it, and welcome to UF and The Gator Nation!
Bernie Machen is the president of UF.