Venturing into the unknown and pursuing challenges were two themes in Monday morning’s convocation ceremony, in which the freshmen officially became members of the College community.
Prominent voices — including representation from faculty, alumni and the student body — shared anecdotes and advice with the Class of 2016.
President R. Barbara Gitenstein gave the group a warm welcome in the Recreation Center by beginning with an overview of the College’s history, including its five name changes.
“While there have been many substantive changes over the years, institutional core commitments to excellence and service have remained constant,” Gitenstein said. “These values are not, however, a simple formula. Rather they are points for discussion and challenge.”
She spoke of how the school prizes diversity and how it is through understanding and appreciating different viewpoints that the community continues to learn and grow.
“As you participate in shaping our college community, you must continue to challenge yourself and challenge others to perform in all arenas in an exemplary fashion. You owe that to one another. You owe that to your families. You owe that to yourselves,” she said.
Cynthia Curtis, president of the Faculty Senate, offered insight on behalf of the College’s faculty.
She pointed out how people habitually surround themselves with friends who view the world in the same way, but that it is equally important to branch beyond that comfort.
“Challenge your own assumptions about the world,” Curtis said. “Attend a lecture by someone you disagree with politically or morally. Take a class which makes you nervous in a field you know nothing about. Talk to students radically different from you. In this way, you will truly learn.”
On behalf of the Alumni Association, its president William Cahill (’05 and ’09 graduate) shared song lyrics he found appropriate for the occasion.
Quoting Natasha Bedingfield, Cahill said: “I am unwritten / Can’t read my mind / I’m undefined … Today is where your book begins / The rest is still unwritten.”
When he experienced convocation 11 years ago for the first time, Cahill related his experience to a blank page and encouraged the new class to make the most of it.
Cahill then did his part in putting a face to the College’s newest freshman class, presenting the Class of 2016 with a banner to be hung in the Brower Student Center.
After Cahill’s presentation, Student Government President Christina Kopka took the stage and spoke about the lessons that she recently learned while studying in Spain over this past summer.
“Spending time in another country allows you to redefine who you are and opens your eyes to a better version of the world that can’t be captured by even National Geographic and the Discovery Channel,” Kopka said.
While abroad, she decided to explore the unknown by climbing Mulhacén, the highest mountain on the Iberian peninsula.
Halfway through her journey, she realized if she wanted to reach the top, she could not turn back and that the only way to go was up, despite obstacles like crumbling rocks and a frigid temperature.
Turning that experience into advice, Kopka said, “Always remember it doesn’t matter how you get there and it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get there, so long as you continue to climb.”