The 2016 Convocation ceremony was held on Aug. 26, as approximately 1,900 enthusiastic new students were greeted by current student leaders, faculty, staff and alumni welcoming them with words of inspiration and wisdom anticipating what opportunities their years at the College might hold.
Faculty Grand Marshal Patricia Sullivan, director of the Honors Program, led the procession to the Convocation stage, where President Donald P. Christian offered opening remarks.
“Today, our college community gathers to salute our newest cohort of students, and take up its work of preparing you to excel in rapidly changing times that demand creativity and worldliness,” Christian said. “Convocation reaffirms the importance of learning, discovery and creation, as well as the special wonder of engaging in collaborative between teachers and learners. It unites us in shared purpose, even if during the year ahead we pursue diverse ideas.”
President Christian led the new students in an interactive exercise to illustrate how few people in the world have the privilege of pursuing and attaining a college education, and remind them of the ultimate goal of a New Paltz education: developing the skills and capabilities to live happily and productively in a global society and economy.
Sullivan drew on her background as a scholar of communication and rhetoric to encourage new students to think seriously about the value of free intellectual exchange.
“We can approach communication situations with humility, speak faithfully, and attend to diversity and difference; and not only tolerate diversity and difference, but embrace it,” Sullivan said. “You will hear and tell many stories, and engage in many dialogues during your time on campus. You have joined the collaborative community at New Paltz. Make the most of your time here, and have fun.”
Casey Silvestri ’17 (Digital Media & Journalism) offered remarks on behalf of the student body. Speaking as a transfer student, Silvestri’s words were particularly resonant for the growing population of New Paltz students whose road to the College has been circuitous or non-traditional.
“When I made plans to transfer to New Paltz, people were telling me that it would be tough to make friends, and these comments made me fear that I would be labelled, ‘The Transfer Girl,’” Silvestri said. “But my story could not be further from those misconceptions. On my very first day here I found a group of ambitious, diverse students waiting for me. Not only are New Paltz students dedicated to their studies, they are dedicated to helping those around them. As you begin your first year here, I encourage everyone to find your New Paltz families among the on-campus community, and know that when things don’t go as planned, New Paltz is here to support you and see you grow.”
Aaron Hines ’00 (Business Administration & Management) ‘04g (Business Administration), director of the MBA program in the School of Business, offered one last address from the perspective of a New Paltz alumnus.
“This is an exciting time to be at SUNY New Paltz,” Hines said. “This is a campus full of supportive faculty, staff and peers, some of whom will become lifelong friends. When it’s all said and done, the support you receive today may lead to tomorrow’s success.
“I’m very grateful for the time I’ve been a part of the SUNY New Paltz community. I’ve met a host of great people here, and many of my closest friends and relatives are alumni of New Paltz. I hope you too find that the community of fellow students, staff and faculty are here to help you develop your talents and your character, so that you can reach your full potential. Thank you, and let’s go Hawks!”