In a world desperately in need of answers, Connecticut College is helping students identify problems they can solve by considering a question central to the institution’s new curriculum: “What is your question?”
Dean of the College and Faulk Foundation Professor of Psychology Jefferson Singer put that query to the Class of 2019, returning students, faculty and staff who gathered Thursday on Jean C. Tempel ’65 Green to celebrate the College’s 101st Convocation, the annual ceremony marking the official start of the academic year. In his keynote address, “What Makes Conn Different: Minding the Gap and Making Connections,” Singer explained how the simple question will lead students to recognize areas of concern and change not only their own lives, but the lives of others.
“What gaps do you see? What puzzles you?” he asked students. “What do you look at and say, ‘Does it have to be this way?’ ‘Why can’t it be done better?’ or ‘How could I make a difference?’ Find a question that stirs your passions and then use this place as your playground of ideas.”
Singer challenged students to sample broadly from the curriculum and seek out courses that can help them make links among subjects and build connections to community work, internships, study abroad and more.
He invoked alumni of the College who made connections that helped them develop novel solutions to challenging problems, such as Ellen Vitetta ’64, who discovered a key immune cell that plays a role in both asthma responses and certain forms of cancer. And Shelley Taylor ’68, one of the founders of the field of health psychology, who connected advances in social and clinical psychology to applications in health promotion, disease prevention, and treatment adherence. And David Barber ’88, one of the pioneering forces in the farm-to-table sustainability movement.
“What connects all of these Camels?” Singer asked. “They made the intellectual, artistic, and practical leaps to fill those spaces in our society.”
In declaring the 101st year of academic exercises at Connecticut College officially open, President Katherine Bergeron also stressed the new curriculum’s bold approach to integrative liberal education.
“The greatest development of yourself as a whole person happens when you begin to grasp the deeper connections between those aspects of your life and your learning that would normally remain separate,” Bergeron told students. “And so, at the centerpiece of the new curriculum is the integrative pathway, allowing you to explore your passions and ponder a question from several differing – even conflicting – vantage points.”
Exactly 100 years after Connecticut College’s first president, Frederick H. Sykes, welcomed the College’s first students, faculty and staff to campus, Bergeron welcomed all the new arrivals to the College: 481 members of the Class of 2019; 24 transfer students; 17 professors and postdoctoral fellows; and 20 staff members.
During the Convocation ceremony, members of the College community recited the nearly 100-year-old Honor Code Matriculation Pledge, a pledge to uphold academic excellence and high community standards in every aspect of their lives.
The ceremony concluded with the singing of the Alma Mater, led by Bergeron, a music scholar, and was followed by a community picnic on Chapel Green.