Dear Class of 2021,

First, I want to congratulate you all on your abilities, talents and privileges that enable you to attend this university. Elon holds being a global citizen at the forefront of everything, and your promise to become one is evident by you being here.

But this isn’t limited to studying abroad or eating in the international section of Lakeside (but I do encourage you to partake in them). It starts with your interactions on campus and the willingness to be uncomfortable to learn.

College is a place of growth. In my three years here, I’ve learned that to be true. During your time at Elon, you’ll be introduced to conflict among peers and even within yourselves as you wrestle with your values and beliefs. And you’ll be more aware of the national problems swarming our country.Elon students have a way of making their own mark in history during these divided times.

And if you don’t know that yet, you will.

Peaceful and impactful protests, workshops and panels will occur throughout the year on issues like racial inequality, LGBTQIA rights and police brutality. I encourage you to attend at least one and hear your peers’ perspectives — especially if you don’t agree with them.

But this is where you might get uncomfortable. While you take other people’s thoughts into consideration, I’m urging you to challenge your own. And to do this, it’ll take a little extra effort.

You probably get news from Facebook or Twitter or even Snapchat, and only click stories pertaining to your interests or beliefs. But the stories on your feed align with an algorithm of your biases. Your timeline only appeals to your beliefs — and it even might make you feel like your opinion is the only one. But as we all know, there is two sides to everything.

Your perspective remains stagnant if you only read the things you like. I encourage you to find news from multiple sources. And from there, you can make your own informed opinions once you’ve heard all sides of a story. But you don’t need social media to do this.

Talk to people who you don’t agree with, and hear them out without interrupting.

Leave the familiarity of campus at some point and meet some residents in Alamance County and Burlington — which was ranked one of the poorest cities in the country just two years ago.

Get to know the janitorial and dining staff that you’ll pass everyday. You’ll see how these connections can totally change the way you see the world. Having a global understanding and appreciation for different cultures sets Elon students apart. We develop relationships with people of all walks of life.

I hope you find this campus to be a breeding ground for creative thinking. And as you grow more into yourself, I hope that your peers and mentors nurture you into the informed global citizens this world needs.