Q. What has the power to turn a tranquil grassy amphitheater into a pounding, pulsing epicenter of energy, noise and spirit? Of “Oooaaah, oooaaah!” and “MHC! MHC!”

A. Convocation. 

Mount Holyoke’s loudest tradition of the academic year is all about celebration — and shouting for joy in the company of your class, rain or shine.

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What is Convocation all about?

It's about welcoming the new first-year students, cheering on the graduating class and loving on all those in between! It begins with a procession, the faculty lead the way in full regalia. Students dress in their class color, seniors wear their gowns for the first time (without caps and hoods).

Convocation marks the official start to the school year and, as such, includes remarks from the chair or vice-chair of the Board of Trustees, the president of the College, a faculty member, a staff representative and the president of the Student Government Association.

Convocation is a chance to highlight community accomplishments, points of pride, initiatives and goals. And it’s an opportunity to enjoy performances by the Mount Holyoke Convocation Choir and the Five College West African Music Ensemble.

President Sonya Stephens addressing the students at Convocation
The West African Drum Ensemble plays during Convocation


Convocation is about celebrating

As notable as the events on the amphitheater stage may be, the real action arguably unfolds within the stands. Here, Convocation is a visual and sensory delight of the blue, yellow, red and green class colors — and purple for Frances Perkins scholars.

Throngs of students come laden with balloons, boas, beads, flowers, capes, gowns, body paint, pompoms, glitter, bubbles, Silly String, tiaras, luau skirts, blow-up friends (kangaroo, dinosaur, pizza slice, etc.), hats, wigs, signs and shades.

Students celebrating during Convocation
Singers on stage during Convocation in front of a large crowd incluidng a blow up kangaroo
Members of a senior class enjoying their last Covocation


Convocation is about spirit

To be surrounded by a throng of utterly fearless and unequivocally spirited students? It’s exciting. It’s intense. It’s unexpected. It’s surreal. And you won’t want it to stop. (Until it gets too hot and you are ready to get your picnic on at Skinner Green.)

Students celebrating during Convocation

It’s also the perfect introduction to life at a women’s college. Yes, we do things a little differently here. Since 1837, when our College was founded by a visionary woman in a bonnet, we have believed that women could and should do great things. But thoughts of “What will this be like?” and “This is kind of different,” are soon replaced by “This place is amazing!” and “These people inspire me!” Convocation helps kick this transformation into high gear.

Convocation is about community

Archival photo of the Convocation procession in the 1930s and a photo of the Convocation procession in  2018
The photo on the left — capturing Convocation from the 1930s — is courtesy of Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections. The photo on the right shows the faculty procession in 2018.

Convocation, like the College itself, has transformed over the years. What began in 1931 as a “special service” — a buttoned-up affair in the Abbey Chapel featuring an address by the president and the announcement of student awards — has evolved into a rousing bookend to Commencement. This highly anticipated tradition both ushers in the new academic year and brings the classes, faculty and staff together.

As Convocation helps you see, feel and believe, you are part of a community that is driven to achieve, lead and succeed — and to raise one another up. To shake things up and to make good things happen. This is your College. This is your time. Welcome to Mount Holyoke College!

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