Marija Tesla '11

Convocation Address
September 7, 2010

Welcome members of the Mount Holyoke College faculty, staff, and administration. Welcome my fellow classmates. Welcome class of 2014, new transfer students, Frances Perkins Scholars, language fellows and exchange students. Welcome back class of 2013, class of 2012, and of course my own class of 2011. The Student Government Association welcomes you all.

As we gather under these warm sunshine skies in our beautiful South Hadley, together, we celebrate yet another new beginning. As students who come from all around the globe, we come not only with the multifacetedness that comprises our identities, we also come with diverse experiences, and understandings of the world.

We are here to learn from one another, we are here to engage in dialogue, to talk across differences, to come to understand those around us, so that we are able to get to know ourselves through the many individuals who make up our community here at Mount Holyoke. By exploring the identities of those around us, we are able to discern our own much more clearly. We are able to take charge of who we are and to understand and embrace the differences and similarities we share, and see in this world. This is one of the many reasons why our Student Government Association is vital to our Mount Holyoke community. Our SGA is not here to shut down conversations, and make decisions without student input; we are here to open up conversation and provide a collective voice for you on this campus. SGA my fellow peers is yours, it is ours.

We are all here because no matter what kind of hardships we have faced in our lives, we have all had mentors, individuals who have impacted our lives in positive and remarkable ways, ranging from one act of kindness to lifelong friendships of support. As a first year student at Mount Holyoke, I found that I was mentored more than I mentored others around me simply because I was still trying to find my own place within this community. I was trying to ground myself. SGA opened so many doors for me my first year. As a Hall Senator, I had the opportunity to learn so much about our campus, and that familiarity and knowledge made me that much more connected with this place I now call home.

The truth is, I would not be here today had I not received mentorship first and foremost from the Mount Holyoke College faculty. The mentorship that I received from faculty gave me the courage to do what I never thought possible, to dare, to explore, and to take risks and chances. Their support and encouragement sent me this summer to Croatia, the country of my birth. After fifteen years I had the courage to revisit my past while also conducting academic research on migration and memory, focusing on the war of my childhood. Mentorship is a gift that expands; on my journey I was able to give strength and comfort to the women I spoke to, none of which would have been possible without the Mount Holyoke faculty, staff, administration, and fellow peers who mentored me along the way.

From my mentors I have been given courage, provided with resources and practical support, and encouraged to do everything I dreamed of. I have also discovered my greatest reward, which is to act as a mentor to others. There is nothing more powerful than being able to help someone else, to serve others and give them the gifts that I have received myself. This is why I am thrilled to serve you as your SGA president this school year. My fellow classmates, I hope that you not only seek representation and dialogue in your SGA, but that you also look to us for support and guidance. I hope that you find mentorship, and as you ground yourself in our community, that you mentor others as well, because at the end of the day, what makes our community unique and special is that everyone gives and receives, and being able to receive and give is one of the most beautiful things each and every single one of us can do for one another.