Convocation 2015

Stefanie Niles, Vice President for Enrollment, Marketing & Communications
Convocation 2015
August 30, 2015

Welcome to Dickinson! I am so pleased to welcome you to today’s Convocation ceremony, and to our community. While you have been on campus for the past four to seven days, much is still new to you. I am sure that you have been continually learning about unfamiliar buildings, people you must get to know, traditions that will become a part of your Dickinson experience, and expectations this community (your professors, your roommates, your coaches and others) now have of you. Acronyms, such as ATS, KW and SLCE may just be starting to sound familiar. Perhaps you have found your way to places such as Morgan Field, Massey’s and the SNAR. Or perhaps you are wondering what I am talking about right now, and how much more you have to learn before you feel like a true Dickinsonian.

I understand what it is like to be new—like you, I arrived at Dickinson this summer, just six weeks before your move-in day. I too have been getting to know the campus and trying to understand the significance of Benjamin Rush, the legacy of the mermaid, how many study abroad locations Dickinson offers to its students and why people cringe when students walk close to the seal on Britton Plaza.

As I thought about my remarks today, I wanted give you the benefit of my six weeks head start at Dickinson and share the most critical piece of advice I can offer to you. In the coming weeks and months, ask questions and be sure to listen to the answers. That seems so simple, right? But so often we don’t take time to listen and learn from those around us. In my short time here I have spent many, many hours talking with the members of my staff, my fellow senior officers, faculty members, students working in the admissions office and anyone else who can help me learn about Dickinson’s many distinctive qualities. In your own quest to learn about Dickinson, there is no substitute for talking to upper level students who can share their vast array of experiences, faculty members who have witnessed your predecessors’ successes and failures and how they were realized, and the staff members who are here to support you and help you be your own best advocate. And while you will likely keep your smartphone nearby and text, SnapChat, Instagram and tweet your friends and family members back home, do put your phones down long enough to get to know your fellow classmates. The class of 2019—your class—is exceptionally talented, diverse, multifaceted and dynamic. Among you, you have:

13 high-school student-body presidents, 12 senior class presidents, 15 yearbook editors, 23 newspaper editors, 22 literary magazine editors, 12 published authors, 225 team captains in 23 different sports and 42 Model UN participants. You have five Boy Scout Eagle Award recipients among you, and two Girl Scout Gold Award recipients.

Sixty-eight of you participated in choir in high school, 90 of you were involved in theatre, and 84 of you were band or orchestra participants, with five of you serving as first violin and four of you as drum major or majorette. Nine of you are equestrians, and 50 of you are dancers. Among you is a radio host, a top-10 finisher at the USA National Synchronized Swimming competition, a competitive figure skater, a nationally ranked BMX competitor, an inventor, a trained firefighter, a filmmaker, a co-founder of a computer game company, a nationally competitive rock climber and an individual who was part of one of the three top boarding school a cappella groups in the United States.

And a whopping 493 of you indicated you have been involved in community service, including helping clean-up during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, working for Globalworks Panama, building homes during a service trip to Guatemala, teaching science in a small, rural village in Northern India, and working with the Main Line Animal Rescue. You have been a panda keeper in China, worked for the Special Olympics, participated in Trout Stream conservation efforts, raised awareness of human trafficking and provided equine therapy for disabled children. You have founded service organizations and efforts, including the Text Less Live More campaign; Call 4 Safety, a nonprofit devoted to providing pre-paid, pre-programmed cell phones to rescued sex-trafficked women in shelters preventing reabsorption; a scoliosis Support group; and Books 4 Smiles, a charity that collected and donated over 2,600 books to economically disadvantaged children. One of you worked with your home state’s House of Representatives to pass a bill on suicide education, also founding a 5K race and raising over $33,000 to support that cause.

Wow. What an impressive list—and that list of accomplishments and involvements goes on and on. Each one of you brings a set of unique talents and experiences to Dickinson, and now is the time to hone and expand them as an active participant in this dynamic community. You chose this place because you felt a connection to its history, recognized the exceptional benefits of a globally focused, liberal-arts education, and understood that the next four years here will mold your future personal and professional lives.

Even though you are new to Dickinson, you are—already—a Dickinsonian. President Roseman, on behalf of the Office of Admissions, it is with much pride and pleasure that I present to you the very talented class of 2019.