Rain clouds parted Wednesday morning just in time for the sun to shine on Mount Holyoke's fall convocation. But the sun was not the only trace of yellow in evidence at the ceremony. From yellow rubber duckies on mortarboards to a human-sized banana and a yellow submarine, members of the class of 2007 sported their class color in abundance as the College community gathered in the Gettell Amphitheater to officially begin the new academic year.
Several parents joined the students, faculty, and staff for the ceremony, including Jan Selvar from Seattle, Washington, whose daughter, Alicia Hunsaker, is a senior this year. "It seems like just the other day I was here and my daughter was a freshman," said Selvar. "I told her to feel it, celebrate it, and enjoy it. This is just a dream for most people."
Between words of welcome from Sherry Tucker, dean of religious and spiritual life, chaplain to the College, and adviser to the Protestant community, and closing remarks by Anita Magovern, chaplain to the College and adviser to the Catholic Community, several members of the Mount Holyoke community, including President Joanne V. Creighton, addressed the cheering crowd.
Jo Jensen '07, president of the Student Government Association, led off, encouraging the students to get involved in the Student Government Association, which is "stronger and more visible than ever this year." She also shared some advice she had recently given to the newly arrived first-years: "I told them that when heading into this year, they should approach academics, their classmates, student organizations, and life pursuits with an open mind. Regardless of our age and class year, we can always strive to be better and continue to expand our horizons. I also told them that I hoped that they would learn from their time here that failing isn't really failure--it's a learning process. I know that this lesson certainly took me a while but that Mount Holyoke has taught me that taking a risk, a chance at my dream, going after my goal is the best way to grow."
Jensen, who spent part of last year and this summer working on Social Security reform in Washington, DC, appeared on C-SPAN in August to discuss Social Security reform on the 71st anniversary of the Social Security Act. She is currently featured as one of the two students for the month of September for the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute for her work as the deputy director of the Washington, DC-based grassroots organization, Students for Saving Social Security, and as founder of the Conservative Women's Caucus for the state of Massachusetts.
Penny Silveira, coordinator and assistant to the board of trustees and cochair of staff council, welcomed the students on behalf of the College staff. "Mount Holyoke has a staff of the most extraordinary, dedicated, and diverse individuals. You will find us diligently working behind our desks, mowing the lawns, painting the walls, cooking your food, and much, much more. But whatever our job might be, our goal is a common one: to provide an environment for all students to take hold of every bit of learning the College can hand out," she said. "We're committed to providing you with a campus that runs with compassion, dedication, enthusiasm, and a little construction now and then."
Vincent Ferraro, Ruth Lawson Professor of Politics, addressed the students about the importance of overcoming fear in the "real world." By turns somber and humorous, he invoked Dostoevsky and Britney Spears in lamenting the culture of falsehood and fear that pervades our world. "By entering this College you have given up your right to be ignorant," he said, "and we will not allow you to indulge that vice." He urged students to become informed, develop analytical skills, and to learn to trust themselves, and asserted that the College, "with its resources and the astonishing commitment of the faculty and staff, can help you navigate this treacherous terrain."
President Joanne V. Creighton devoted her remarks to the theme of education as connection, both within the MHC community, past, present, and future, and with the "world of daunting disconnection." Citing the long tradition of Mount Holyoke graduates who have heeded Mary Lyon's exhortation to "renovate the world," she observed that "a large measure of idealism pervades this college campus. It is the norm to want to make a difference, to try new things, to give back, to care about justice, to embrace diversity, and to work towards greater mutual understanding and more inclusive community. In impressive numbers our students and our alumnae do all of these things and more." She urged the students to take full advantage of the opportunity to connect to the College's "powerful legacy."
Creighton also stressed the ongoing value of women's education: "Class of 2010, from your very first day here, you will be inducted into the history and tradition and essence of this College. Like all of us, you will be proud to be at a place that is first for women and puts women first, proud to be connected to the powerful women who have come before us and those who will come after us. Many of us are first-generation college students and well aware of how shallow the roots of women's education, how undervalued women still are in the world, what a privilege it is to have the opportunities afforded by a place like Mount Holyoke."
Interspersed between addresses were performances by the College Glee Club and the M & Cs, who led the crowd in singing the "Alma Mater."
After the ceremony the crowd dispersed to enjoy a sun-filled picnic on Skinner Green.
Listen to Jo Jensen's Speech (6.8MB.MP3)