Class of 2023 encouraged to ‘build a better world’
The community we share is defined by the choices we make, Dean of the Institutional Equity and Inclusion Rodmon King told the students, faculty, staff, administrators and trustees gathered on Tempel Green for the 108th Convocation ceremony on Aug. 29.
“Our lives are filled with choices … so many choices that it is easy for us to lose sight of the power our choices have,” King said, before sharing a few examples from his own life where the decisions of others caused him deep pain.
“The choices you make can contribute to the suffering of others and the brutality of this world. … Or, our choices, our decisions, our actions, our beliefs can actualize a different picture for us. All of us—the students, the staff, the faculty, the administrators, the trustees—all of us have the power to create the community we want to have.”
King encouraged the entire Conn community to “stay vigilant,” learn about the lived experiences of others and contribute to the goal of full participation.
“It will take more than words,” he said. “It is when we combine our actions and intentions that something amazing happens.”
Earlier in the ceremony, President Katherine Bergeron officially opened the 108th academic year at Connecticut College and welcomed 22 new faculty and 75 new staff members along with “the 20 courageous transfer students who made a choice to start again in a new place; and the 634 dazzling and determined, socially conscious and creative, generous and gifted first-year students who make up one of the most diverse and academically talented—and by far the largest—incoming classes in our history.”
“Convocation is such an important rite of passage,” she said, noting that the word “convocation” comes from the Latin convocare, which means “to call together.”
“Today’s event not only brings us together on this iconic spot, Tempel Green, but it also calls us to reflect together on why we are here, and to acknowledge together what it means to be a part of this exceptional community."
Bergeron challenged the students to think about what it means to be welcomed and to belong and to contribute to the flourishing of others—central themes of Being Heumann, the summer reading book for the Class of 2026 and this year’s One Book One Region selection. An “unrepentant memoir,” Being Heumann offers a first-hand account of the disability rights movement in the U.S., told from the vantage point of celebrated activist Judith Heumann, who was disabled by polio as a child in the 1950s.
“I’m going to let Judy Heumann have the last word on this,” Bergeron said. “‘The story of changing the world,’ she tells us, ‘is always the story of many. Many ideas, many arguments, many discussions, many late-night, punchy, falling-apart laughing brainstorms; many believers; many friendships; many failures; many times almost giving up; and many, many, many, MANY people.’
“Yes, that may be her story, but, I want you to know, it is also yours. So let me say again: Welcome to your new community. Welcome to Connecticut College.”
Board of Trustees Chair Debo P. Adegbile ’91 told the newest students Convocation marks the beginning of a new academic journey that “is not as much about what you have done, but about all that you will do.”
“The invitation for you to become our newest Camels was weighted in favor of your promise and not your past. We were drawn to you because of our assessment of all that you will go on to do here together, inside classrooms, labs, studios; together in the dormitories, on the fields of play, on the greens and through your connections within the College and within the broader New London community,” he said.
“We are excited to follow, encourage and be inspired by your progress during your years at Connecticut College, and beyond.”
Convocation began with a land acknowledgment by Ronald Flores, professor of sociology and faculty director of the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, and a call to community by the Rev. Stephanie Haskins, college chaplain and director of Religious and Spiritual Programs. The event also included a recitation of the Matriculation Pledge, led by Dean of the College Erika J. Smith and Student Government Association President Hannah Gonzalez ’23, and a signing of the Shared Governance Covenant by representatives from the Board of Trustees, senior administration, faculty, staff and the Student Government Association. The event concluded with the singing of the Connecticut College Alma Mater, followed by the Victory Song. The event also featured live music by the New London Big Band and the Manchester Pipe Band.
Convocation marked the culmination of Welcome Weekend for the Class of 2026 and transfer students, who signed the Honor Code Pledge prior to the event.