Today, we are starting a journey together. It’s a journey of discovery, of challenge, of community. It’s a commingling of ideas and thoughts and dreams. Today is your convocation—a word that literally means “to come together”—and today we do so to celebrate the start of our journey, and to celebrate our potential as a learning community. Today begins a conversation, one that requires us to bring our authentic selves, without reservation, into a collaborative dialogue that will create our shared experience over the course of the next four years.
This is my first year as president of Ithaca College; I am new here just like you. And 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!
We all chose to come to Ithaca College, we chose to be a part of this community. This is the place we thought matched us best. Here, you will get a challenging education, learning more about a field of your choice, and learning more about yourself and others. This is one of the only times in your life when you will live, work, and grow in the company of people whom you’ve never met before, but who will, over time, become friends, mentors, a part of your chosen family. The years you spend here will help you understand who you are as a person, how you want to express yourself as an individual within our community and our society.
This is a celebratory gathering, a day of hope and excitement. But we must press pause for a moment, and acknowledge the greater context in which this day exists. We are struggling as a nation, our country is tied in knots. This period of struggle presents very real opportunities for us to do difficult, meaningful work. At IC, there will be many chances to explore and affirm how we will do this work together—how we will learn, lead, support, and make progress on complex issues both in our society and on our campus. We must find ways to build meaningful connections even when conversations are difficult and uncomfortable.
I ask that you be open to these opportunities, commit fully to them. Lean into the hard stuff and decide how you want to show up. Encourage unity, inclusion, and common understanding. Above all, be respectful. The next four years will transform your life, and to fully engage in your transformation of self, you must embrace the understanding that you have a responsibility that extends beyond yourself. This is the crux of an undergraduate liberal arts experience; you learn about the world in its wonderful, messy entirety, and you take your place within it. Your education presents you with a unique opportunity. Use it.
We begin our time at IC, too, in the context of a celebration of the college’s 125th anniversary. Just think about that for a minute. 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.