When Dean of the College Erika J. Smith was herself a college student, she wanted so badly for her questions to be resolved instantaneously, she had to know what was “right” and she couldn’t wait to get to what was next.
So, her mother sent her some sage advice from the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, which she shared with students, faculty and staff during her keynote address at Connecticut College’s 107th Convocation ceremony Aug. 30:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
“To me, this is what it means to luxuriate in a liberal arts education: to live into our life’s questions. To allow yourself to be led from one inquiry to the next, as you make discoveries not just about an academic discipline, but about yourself,” Smith said.
“The trick is that you’ll need to be open, curious, engaged—and most importantly—patient along the way.”
Earlier in the ceremony, President Katherine Bergeron officially opened the 107th academic year at Connecticut College, welcoming to the community the 40 new faculty and 64 new staff members who have joined Conn since the last in-person Convocation in 2019, as well as the 528 newest Camels, including 26 transfer students, one return-to-college student and the 501 members of the Class of 2025.
Bergeron also addressed the “intrepid Class of 2024.”
“Last year you did not experience a live Convocation because the new school year was ushered in online. Some of you watched the remote event from your rooms here on campus. Some of you tuned in from as far away as Vietnam. Today, you are finally together. You made it through an historic first year with optimism and strength and grace and we want to honor you for that. You are an example for us all, Class of 2024,” she said.
During her remarks, Bergeron noted that the word “convocation” comes from the Latin convocare, meaning “to call together.”
“This event certainly calls on us to reflect together on why we are here, to acknowledge together what it means to be a part of the College community,” she said.
“Of all the lessons we have learned from this pandemic that we are still living through, one of the most profound, I think, has to do with the very question of community: what a precious thing it is to be in residence with others; how diminished our existence becomes when we operate from a distance; how much knowledge and compassionate effort is required to forge the bonds that connect us; and how vital it is for everyone to be involved in that effort. It’s a question that we will have to attend to even more diligently, no doubt, as we come together this year as a fully residential campus.”
Convocation began with a land acknowledgment by Board of Trustee Chair Debo Adegbile ’91 and an invocation by Rabbi Susan Schein. The event also included a recitation of the matriculation pledge, led by Smith and Vice President of the Student Government Association Emmanuella Aspras ’22, and a signing of the Covenant to Shared Governance by representatives from the administration, the faculty, the staff and the Student Government Association. The event concluded with the traditional singing of the Connecticut College Alma Mater, followed by the Victory Song.
Convocation marked the culmination of a four-day Welcome Weekend for the Class of 2025 and transfer students, who signed the Honor Code Pledge prior to the event.
Members of the Class of 2024, who participated in a virtual orientation last year, arrived on Sunday for a series of in-person events to celebrate their return to campus. The sophomores signed the Honor Code Pledge, participated in the ceremonial ringing of the gong, attended a special welcome reception, and celebrated at an evening block party featuring music, food trucks and other activities.