Convocation ushers in new academic year

The 2012 undergraduate convocation ceremony took place on Sept. 4, in the Arena at the Don Taft University Center at 4p.m., with 550 students, staff, faculty, and administrators in attendance, including President George Hanbury II.

Convocation is an event that officially marks the beginning of a new academic year. Each year the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences designs programs and activities around an annual theme. This year’s theme is “Life and Death.” This theme will inspire the college’s guest speakers, lectures, course offerings, and student activities.

In his opening remarks, Don Rosenblum, dean of the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, said that convocation is a relationship between students and faculty, an opportunity for students to pause and reflect on their goals and where they want to be after graduation.

Hanbury said that convocation marks the beginning of the academic year, after the orientation period ends.

“It is an opportunity to reinforce why students come to college,” he said, “To expand their minds, to encourage a passionate curiosity to learn and get perspectives and viewpoints on education, knowledge, life experiences as the student grows and matures.”

The keynote speaker was Jamaica Kincaid, a renowned author, whose book Annie John was selected for the 2012 First-Year Reading program. The program offers new undergraduate students an opportunity to read the selected book related to the academic theme and meet the author at a dinner reception after convocation.

After a reception, where Kincaid had a book signing, she attended a dinner, where first-year students got the chance to ask her questions.

Rosenblum said that this year about 80-120 students participated in the program. He said that the combination of convocation and the First-Year Reading program gives the university an opportunity to welcome new students, to set a standard in a non-competitive, non-threatening and non-grading environment, and to read a book at college level understanding.

Claire Lutkewitte, assistant professor in Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, said that students who participate in the reading program appreciate the experience because it gives them an opportunity to actually meet an author and hear what he or she has to say about their writing and how they came to be a writer.

“It also gives students an opportunity to celebrate the beginning of the year and also meet and interact with other students.” Lutkewitte said.

Leanne Boucher, Ph.D., was chosen to be a speaker at this year’s convocation because she is the recipient of the 2012 Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences Full-Time Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.

In her address Boucher said that we all have the capacity to live extraordinary lives and everyone’s perspectives and contributions are truly unique.

She urged students to “take out time to be a college student – get involved. You have one life to live before you die.”

Bansi Savla, freshman biology major, said she likes the theme of life and death and how it will apply to the rest of the year. She also said that she had never met an author and it was very exciting to actually meet one at convocation.

“I will be seeking out new opportunities and getting everything out of life that I can in my first year, while I still have the time and not studying all the time,” Savla said.

Kincaid said that beginnings are always wonderful. She said that she believes death is a standard and life interrupts. She related the “life and death” theme by reading a chapter from her book Annie John, in which she reflects on her brother’s death. She said that, “in his death, I came to know of his life.”

Hanbury said that Kincaid’s book relates to the theme of the academic year, and he thought that her perspective on death being the standard and life an interruption was very interesting. He said that she was, indeed, doing what NSU wants students to accomplish – to get them to think differently.

“Education is not just studying, cramming, and regurgitating what the professor wants you to say. We want people to grow to be leaders and, in order to be a leader, you have to think, and, in order to think, you need to have different ideas, thoughts and concepts in life. You can’t be one way.” Hanbury said.

John Ionnotti, a senior finance major, said that convocation gave him the opportunity to meet the speaker, to acknowledge those who made the Dean’s list and also get to meet faculty.

Ionnotti said convocation showed him that there is more to college than just classes.

“It’s about making the most of my semester and that includes looking at ways that maybe I didn’t think about initially this past semester,” he said.

Kincaid, in an interview after the ceremony, encouraged freshmen to stay healthy, try to enjoy and appreciate the time they have here because it is a gift.

“Tying it to the theme, we take it so much for granted that you will always be young. You don’t understand how glorious it is to be your age, to see the world. You will never see the world better. It will never be as good as it is right now. Love it, it will go by fast.” Kincaid said.

Janelle Alvarez, sophomore biology major, and Dean’s list scholar said that the convocation encouraged her to open her views on the world, and to realize that it is so important, as a person, to evolve and open your mind to different things that you might not have known about.

Her sister, Brittany Alvarez, senior biology major, said it was nice to attend convocation and relive what she did when she was freshman.

Leave a Reply