The Class of 2021 enter their college years at a time when the liberal arts are the target of criticism and disdain among some segments of society. During Monday’s Convocation and Community Picnic at Ithaca College, those attacks were countered by highlighting the deeper values of such an education.
During her remarks, President Shirley M. Collado advised the nearly 1,620 students of the incoming class that they would change in the next four years; she urged IC’s newest cohort to not only embrace their transformations, but to accept a wider responsibility to encourage unity, inclusion and common understanding.
President Shirley M. Collado greets students during the Convocation and Community Picnic. (Photo by Robyn Wishna.)
“This is the crux, in fact, of a liberal arts education and experience: you learn about the world and its wonderful, messy entirety, and you decide how you will take your place within it,” Collado said.
“Your education presents you an amazing opportunity that most students in this country and around the world don’t get to experience,” she added. “So I say claim it, and pay it forward.”
The Convocation ceremony, which also included about 100 new transfers to the college, was held in the Glazer Arena within the Athletics and Events Center. The annual rite marks the official start of the academic year, which Collado said was ripe with opportunities for the Class of 2021 to apply their education.
“At IC, there will be many chances to explore and affirm how we want to do work together—how we will learn, lead, support, and make progress on complex issues both on our campus and in our society,” she said. “We must find ways to build community, to build meaningful connections even when conversations are difficult and uncomfortable.”
Collado added that the greater context of current events, in which the nation is weighed down by forces of hatred and bigotry, also provide the chance for students to focus their education toward difficult but meaningful work.
“I ask you to be really open to these opportunities, commit fully to them,” she added. “Lean into the hard stuff and decide—very intentionally—how you want to show up.”
Students ready to begin
For their part, students expressed excitement for diving into new classes, meeting new people, joining new clubs, and discovering new ways of looking at the world. They also expressed an eagerness to accept Collado’s nudge and dive into challenging issues and conversations.
Lucia Tepper said she hopes to find her place here at IC, and help others do the same. “Specifically I want to be there for others in the LGBTQ+ community. I hope to help guide others and be what other people were for me when I wasn’t as sure of myself as I am now,” she said.
Logan Carr-Howard said that he’s passionate about tribal and reservation rights in the United States. “That’s not always a part of the dialogue, and it should be, so I want to help bring awareness about that,” he said.
Madolyn Laurine of Seattle, Washington said she’s looking forward to getting out of her bubble to expand her worldview and help bring more diverse opinions to conversations. She also saw parallels between herself and Collado, who was able to leave her Brooklyn home to attend college in Tennessee thanks to a scholarship.
“I wouldn’t have been able to attend Ithaca College without the Park Scholar Award, similarly to how President Collado wouldn’t have been able to attend Vanderbilt without her scholarship, so I especially want to explore issues from a lower socio-economic standpoint,” Laurine said.
Marking the Start
This year’s Convocation ceremony introduced new elements to the yearly tradition. Among them was a long line of faculty in regalia welcoming students into the A&E Center, and a commemorative pin that members of the Class of 2021 were handed by student-athletes before entering the building.
Carlie McClinsey, the president of the Student Governance Council, shared some big-sisterly advice with the Class of 2021 about how to make the most of their time in college, and then focused on the pins.
“This pin symbolizes being part of a community that spans back generations, and more importantly becoming a member of the Bomber family,” she said. “By becoming a member of this family, you have thousands of people behind you willing to lend a hand. That includes the wonderful people standing around you.”
The Class of 2021 pin. (Photo by Robyn Wishna.)
McClinsey then invited the Class of 2021—and President Collado—to place the pin on themselves. Convocation was a sort of kick-off for Collado, as well: she stepped into her role as IC’s ninth president earlier this summer. Convocation marked her first major public address to students.
“Like you, I am learning the shape and the rhythm of this community, the things that make it unique and wonderful. It is such an honor to begin my IC experience alongside you!” Collado said in her remarks.
“You will forever be my first class,” she added with a smile.
Collado also reminded students that this year marks the college’s quasquicentennial.
“The past 125 years, all the things that have happened since 1892, have culminated in the moment we’re experiencing right now, together, in this room,” she said, but noted that IC’s history is much more than a series of chronological events.
“We’re locating ourselves within a continuing evolution, within a continuing conversation which revolves around the interplay between youth and experience, between growth and tradition, between theory and performance,” she said. “You are a part of that evolution.”
Other speakers at Convocation included Thomas Grape ’80, chair of the board of trustees, and Tom Swensen, professor and chair of exercise and sport sciences as well as the chair of IC’s faculty council, and included performances by students in the IC West African Drum & Dance Ensemble. Following a recitation of IC’s alma mater “Ithaca Forever” led by Professor Janet Galvan and the Ithaca College Choir, the assembled students, faculty, and staff members joined together in a community picnic lunch.
Erika Walsh and Hale Douthit contributed to this story.