Tanya O. Williams

Convocation Address
September 7, 2010

Good Morning!! Greetings to you all!! For a person who doesn’t think too much about what she wears everyday, it was a tough morning getting dressed. I started ironing a green button down shirt, but thought, but I want to wear my favorite color, which is red, then I thought, but what if 2013 is upset I don’t have on blue, but then I thought, “they have the sky working for them, they don’t need my help.”

Unfortunately, 2011, I don’t have any yellow or gold in my closet, but I did want to celebrate you with the flower in my hair. This is a special year for us, 2011 - we entered Mt. Holyoke at the same time. As I celebrate the beginning of my 4th year with the college, it is a special feeling to see you, the class that I entered with, all the way through your four years. Let’s make it a great one!

It is indeed a pleasure to stand here, but I have to say that the idea of giving an address on behalf of the staff sounded much better 2 weeks ago - prior to orientation planning, orientation training, pre-orientation, move-in day and the Intersections rehearsals and performance. I’ve been telling the bright faces of the Class of 2014 and other incoming students to “be authentic” in my repeated guidelines for our dialogue sessions. So I’m going to abide by my own rules and treat this like a 2000 person dialogue. I am going to let you know I am authentically pooped.

Late last night when I realized that I was staring off in space praying the words would make their way to me despite my fatigued brain, it hit me that maybe this is the perfect opportunity to write a speech representing the over 900 staff voices that stand with me today. Maybe this exhausted, yet gratified, state is the best place to speak about the commitment of the folks in dining services, LITS, the deans’ offices, facilities management and the other valued resources that are sought out every day at Mt. Holyoke College by students, other staff, faculty and administration. It is often through the quiet work and behind the scenes functioning that shows the staff’s commitment to providing students with the best college experience possible.

I think at this point, I’m supposed to tell you, that you, the students are the shapers of your own destinies – well, you are…sort of. I actually think we are the shapers of our shared destinies. It is through our shared connections and collaborations as students, staff and faculty that Mt. Holyoke continues to strengthen itself beyond its status quo and develops graduates that create a stronger, yet gentler, more compassionate world.

I often speak about the concept of synergy in my work on and off campus. It is the concept that the production of a cohesive team is greater than the sum of its parts producing independently of one another. I believe that is true of the work that we all do here as well – not just as staff, but also as students, faculty and administration.

Our strength is not shown when we work independently of one another, but it is shown when we work collaboratively with one another.

It is true that staff want to be the mentors to students - to offer insight, guidance and reflections that we’ve learned in our lives, but I would venture to say that we’re open to being mentored, as well.

I want to introduce the idea of reciprocal mentorship – a concept that helps us all understand that we each have something to learn from one another - be that staff to student, student to faculty, faculty to staff, or staff to administration, and so on. It is through our connection that we transform the world and it is in our shared mentorship of one another that Mt. Holyoke reaches new heights.

It was fascinating, as I wrote this speech last night, my pooped-ness disappeared. Even the thought of our shared work together creates energy and hope in me for an exciting new year together. Connection is life giving and I am filled with gratitude to have opportunity to remind us of our shared strength.

I celebrate each of you – the staff, faculty, administration, but most importantly the students - 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 – and on behalf of the staff council and all the staff at Mt. Holyoke I look forward to a fantastic year together.