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Currents: convocation 2008

Moving In, Moving On: Convocation Marks Beginning of Colby-Sawyer Careers for New Students

The parade of cars packed with essentials for college life rolled down Main Street on Friday, Sept. 5 starting before 9 a.m. In one of them, first-year student Emma Wolcott from Essex Junction, Vt., was shaking. The youngest of four, she didn't realize she was nervous about coming to college until she and her mother exited the interstate.

“She's calmed down now,” said her mother, Kathleen Jarvis, arranging sheets on her daughter's new bed in Abbey Hall.

Bouncing in through the open door, Wolcott's soccer-playing roommate, Lizzie, introduced herself and her friends, then in the same breath offered to help lug things up from the car.

Jarvis gratefully accepted, and continued organizing her daughter's half of the room.

Within 45 seconds of meeting, the roommates were off to gather things and chat about their classes. Wolcott plans to study nursing, and looked at schools all around New England before choosing Colby-Sawyer for its small size and nursing program.

Two strangers were taking steps toward friendship.

In Ware Campus Center, staff member Pam Trostorff pointed families in the right direction for check-in. She praised the orientation leaders, and how smoothly the morning was going. One of those orientation leaders, Kristin Wood '10, was on her own at Colby-Sawyer for the first time - her brother graduated in 2008.

“I miss Ben - it's weird to be here without him, to know I won't see his car around campus, that he's not in his residence hall,” Wood said, before turning to assist a new student.

A little sister was reaching beyond the familiar and guiding others.

No Matter How Old You Get …

In Wheeler Hall, Danny Volcy was figuring out how the SmartCard works while his only child, Nounechardie, was finding out about her mail box.

“She's a pretty bright little girl,” Danny said. “I still call her my little girl even though she's 19 now.”

Originally from Haiti and now living in Brockton, Mass., Volcy was enjoying his first visit to campus. “She wanted a small college where she can get personal attention; she wanted to be someplace people know her name. We researched Colby-Sawyer and I told her, 'Well, there you go.'”

Volcy anticipates a smooth transition from city living to life in a small town for his daughter.

“One of the reasons Nounechardie chose Colby-Sawyer is because the setting actually reminds her of back home, in Haiti. There, we lived in the countryside – she's not a city girl.”

Different areas of the world are more alike than one might think.

The morning flew by, and with their residence hall rooms in various states of readiness, the 406 new students gathered on the front lawn of Colby-Sawyer College for Convocation, the official opening of the 2008-2009 academic year.

The Fascinating Class of 2012

For the second year in a row, the new class set a record for number of students - there are 20 more this year than last, bringing the college's total enrollment to 1,001.

Among them are 15 transfer students, 14 international students from eight countries, and 20 members of the Progressive Scholars Program, a new initiative that seeks to bring more geographic, racial and ethnic diversity to the college. The theme of transition, greater perspective and expanded family was woven throughout the day, and based on the assigned summer reading of Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

With their families and friends sitting behind them, and their new Colby-Sawyer family beside and in front of them, the Class of 2012 watched as Marshal for the College and Professor of Social Sciences and Education Marc Clement called to order the ceremony that would mark the official beginning of their college careers.

Vice President for Enrollment Management Greg Matthews greeted the new students and introduced them to the Colby-Sawyer community. They are, he said, from 16 states and eight foreign countries (Bahamas, China, Ecuador, Vietnam, Ireland, Norway, India and Ghana).

Sixty-seven percent are from outside New Hampshire, 66 percent are women, and 14 percent are students of color. Fourteen international students help make this the largest, most diverse class in Colby-Sawyer history.

Reading from Three Cups of Tea, about author Greg Mortenson's efforts to build schools in Baltistan, Matthews reminded the new students that adjusting to college is a process and an opportunity: “'If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways,' Haji Ali said, blowing on his bowl. 'The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything…' he said, laying his hand warmly on Mortenson's own. 'Doctor Greg, you must make time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time.'”

“This is a fantastic analogy about how to make friends and survive anywhere,” said Matthews. “You are among many people from many different places who are as yet unfamiliar to you … as you get to know them and their distinctive qualities, they will become your friends, and ultimately they will feel like family.”

As a “two-time graduate of this fine college,” alumna and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Anne Winton Black '73, '75 said she was “very proud to know that the college's legacy is being renewed once again in each of you.”

“Although you may not think so now, your college years will go by more quickly than you can imagine, so savor them,” she encouraged. “Each of you will come to love the college and give of yourselves … in such a way that Colby-Sawyer will reflect those myriad talents and be better for them … you will succeed and you will find great joy in your scholastic and personal maturation.”

Nicole Poelaert '09, president of the Student Government Association, welcomed the Class of 2012, and told them that anything is possible during their college years. “More people believe in you than you even know yet,” she said. “You have chances waiting to be taken… Find what makes you happy and you will succeed. Find what makes you tick and you will have the time of your life. Now is the time to take chances … and be who you want to be. So join clubs, keep your door open, and let your voice be heard. You may surprise yourself!”

Your College Career Starts … Now

President of the College and Professor of Humanities Tom Galligan welcomed the incoming class by emphasizing Winton's assertion that their time at Colby-Sawyer will pass faster than imagined.

“We are glad you are here. Work hard; learn; expand your horizons; get involved; have fun. And, I am willing to bet that even as you succeed in focusing on the moment for the next four years here at Colby-Sawyer that in just a few short years when we meet again under the tent for Commencement, you will look back fondly, shake your head and ask, 'Where did it go?'

As if he had overheard Danny Volcy call his college student “my little girl” earlier in the day, President Galligan continued, “I am also sure that for your families, who are here to drop you off at college, time has also flown by. I bet there are many … sitting in the audience today recalling when you were born; what your first words were; the day you started nursery school or kindergarten. They are thinking these things as they prepare to give you a hug and to pat you on the back after this ceremony and wish you well.

“I am sure your family would agree with me: “Time flies.”

Too soon for some, it was time to say farewell and let the new students find their orientation groups. As the tent emptied, the front lawn filled with hugging families offering encouragement and snapping photographs. Time flies – Convocation was over and it was time to think about that evening's events, class schedules, and the first day of classes just a short weekend away. The transition to full-fledged college student was well underway after just one day at Colby-Sawyer. The next time the entire class gathers, it will be for Commencement – and it will indeed come faster than they can imagine. After all, time flies …

Read President Galligan's complete speech.
You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the file.

-Kate Dunlop Seamans