2008 Convocation

Convocation Address

Erna Wilson FP '10
President, Student Government Association
September 3, 2008

Good afternoon President Creighton; Dean Moore; Amelia Z. Ender; and Shelley Richard, cochair of the Staff Council. Thank you for being here with us this beautiful day. I would like to extend a special welcome to our senior class--the class of 2009. I share with you the excitement and anticipation I have felt upon everyone's arrival these past few days, and tell you that I have been eagerly awaiting the start of this year.

Members of the class of 2012, you heard me tell you about my home on Sunday; today, I would like to share with you a bit about my neighborhood. Fred Rogers may be a PBS icon, but he is also my icon, and a second father to me and to millions of children across the globe. In his zip-up cardigans and his lace-up Vans tennis shoes, Mister Rogers taught me to value such things as service, education, and community. He once said, "All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we're giving or receiving, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That's one of the things that connects us as neighbors--in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver."

It is my hope for us, as neighbors, to connect to one another--simultaneously give and receive help--as each of us has something valuable to bring to this world and contribute to this community. In fact, the definition of a neighbor is a person who shows kindliness or helpfulness toward her fellow humans. Even our traditions are based on this idea--everything from Big Sister/Little Sister to Elfing.

Dean Penny Gill reminded me yesterday that it is not only the person that has been helped who benefits from this type of interdependent relationship, but that the true gift is the relationship formed between the giver and the receiver. The gift of being allowed, as an upperclasswoman, to help an underclasswoman find her way. The gift, as a Frances Perkins Scholar, of listening to a struggling senior decide her next step for the "real world." The gift, as a new transfer student last year, of bringing my voice to the community in order to help others think about things in a way they hadn't before. These gifts, coupled with the help I have generously received from others, make Mount Holyoke College the best of neighborhoods.

Like any good neighborhood, we are connected to one another. The differences that each member brings only help to strengthen our community and challenge us to learn and grow beyond its classroom walls. Whether you are, like me, a first-generation college student, or like our SGA Chair of Halls, Hannah Rachootin, whose family ties to Mount Holyoke precede her birth, welcome; whether you are a student-athlete, like our soccer-playing SGA Treasurer, Emmy Fontaine, or a Residential Life staffer like our Parliamentarian, Jen Kovacs, welcome; whether you are active in many orgs on campus like our Vice President, May Yang, or choose to dedicate your loyalty to only one, like our Chair of Orgs, Jacqueline Lawrence, welcome; and whether you live in the new dorm, like our Chair of Senate, Jelly Longe, or live off campus like our Secretary, Maressa Bell-Deane, welcome. These fellow board members and I are proud to have you as our neighbors and excited to have each of you as a part of the Mount Holyoke community.

This morning, I faced a conflict about a very important matter: What should I wear to Convocation? I stood and looked at my closet, blankly. Should I wear green to celebrate the senior class of 2009? What about blue to welcome our newest class, 2012? Perhaps I should wear red to represent my own class of 2010? But I am also a Frances Perkins Scholar, so maybe purple is the best choice? And I definitely wouldn't want to leave out the yellow class of 2011. The outfit I really needed was something that displayed our community and this idea of interdependence, something that celebrated all of the classes, and something that represented every student here at Mount Holyoke. Because, to me, that is what Student Government at Mount Holyoke is. It is a place for all of the students on this campus to be represented--to be heard--and I, along with the rest of the Executive Board, am here, ready to listen, to every single one of you. Whether you are brand-new, and want to be at the center of what is happening here, or if you are a senior, and want so desperately to make your mark on this campus before you graduate, SGA is open and available to you, and, more than that, we want your energy and your ideas! Please join us by running for Hall Senator, choosing a committee during Committee Yourself Week, or even just stopping me as I bike to Ham Hall for dinner, and ask a question or two. We are here to serve you and are excited to get the opportunity to work with every single one of you here at Mount Holyoke. I encourage you to attend our open meetings and voice concern or give praise to the faculty and staff that work so tirelessly year round to ensure that this college feels less like an institution and more like a neighborhood.

This year, we'll be working together toward a common goal of fostering community and contributing toward the vitality that has always been a hallmark of Mount Holyoke. Because our Student Government Association represents every student here, from every country and every class year, I wore the only appropriate outfit I could find to recognize all of us, working together as one (rainbow socks show). Welcome back to the 2008-2009 school year. Thank you again for this opportunity to receive and to give.

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