Conversations With Our Past
Matthew R. Panconi writes to the Class of 2066

I could start by asking about flying cars and holographic textbooks, but for you, those things are everyday life. Whatever comes next—that’s what I really want to hear about. What are you dreaming up that I can’t even imagine?

They say that the human brain is wired to learn. What does that mean to you? I think of learning as something that takes work. It involves discipline and a desire to improve. But in 2066, is learning just about plugging in and absorbing data?

Instead of wired, let’s talk about “inspired.” I had great professors at Rutgers. They were passionate, down-to-earth role models with intuitive ways of igniting my mind. I want that for you, too. Whatever the classroom of 2066 looks like, I’ll bet there’s a person, not a machine, front and center.

At our commencement, President Obama told us that “America converges here.” And he was spot on. But he talked about more than our diversity and our cutting-edge research; he also celebrated our traditions. And with that in mind, I’ll give you a thought to chew on: if you as a class have protected Rutgers’ most cherished tradition—to be revolutionary—you’ll be dramatically different from who we are.

Remove that from our DNA, the part that wants to continually evolve, and you wouldn’t have Rutgers anymore. So take pleasure in that paradox. Have faith in it. I know I do.

There’s a phrase we use here in 2016: “Scarlet Forever.” Sound familiar? I think of it as an expression of pride—pride in Rutgers and the community I’m a part of. So I expect you’re still saying it, and that you’ll pass it along to your future.

Matthew R. Panconi

First Steps
Unsure of how to fit in during his first semester, Panconi found a sense of purpose and fulfillment in student government.

Learning to Lead
As president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, he made the office his own and addressed issues important to fellow students.

A Key Player
Adding his voice to a growing chorus, Panconi invited President Obama to speak at Rutgers’ 250th Anniversary Commencement in 2016—by hand-delivering a personal letter during a White House tour. (Apparently it helped.)

Favorite Memory
When the 44th President of the United States hugged him during commencement.

The Class of 2066

… after today’s babies have finished college.

Languages Spoken
All those in existence, including the obscure and endangered.

Potential Achievements
Global peace, light-speed travel, eradication of major diseases. 

Why Rutgers?
State-of-the-art campuses in Beijing, Mumbai, and New Nairobi (the Martian capital).

Favorite Memory
School of Engineering saves entire planet with quickly designed asteroid deflector.

Typical Jobs After Four Years of Study
Robotics designer. Robotics trainer. Robotics troubleshooter.

Advice to the World of 2016
Solar energy. It isn’t complicated; really, it’s not.