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Convocation Remarks

Stefanie Niles


Good afternoon, and let me be the first today to extend a very warm “welcome to Dickinson” to all of you! My name is Stefanie Niles, and I serve as Dickinson’s vice president for enrollment management. I am so pleased to have the chance to kick off today’s Convocation ceremony and welcome you to our community, which is now your community. While you have been on campus for part or all of the past week, and some of you even longer, I know there is much that is still new to you.

I am sure the last week or two has felt like a constant stream of “newness” as you have navigated unfamiliar buildings and new people, discovered new traditions that will become a part of your Dickinson experience and come to understand the expectations this community (your professors, your roommates, your coaches and others) now have of you. Abbreviations 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. Maybe even some of what I have just said is still a mystery to you, and you feel that you have much more you have to learn before you become a true Dickinsonian.

I understand what it is like to be new. Just two years ago, I too was getting settled into my brand new role here at Dickinson. I quickly spent time 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 too close to the seal on Britton Plaza.

As I thought about my remarks today, I wanted give you the benefit of my short 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. During my first two years, some of the best and most productive times I have spent have been the many hours talking with the members of my staff, faculty members, students working in the admissions office and anyone else who could help me learn about Dickinson’s many distinctive qualities. In your own quest to discover all that Dickinson can offer to you, there is no substitute for engaging with upper-class students who can share their vast array of experiences, faculty members who have witnessed your predecessors’ successes and failures and can assist you in making good choices and the staff members who are here to support you and help you to be your own best advocate. And while you will likely keep your smart phone nearby and text, SnapChat, Instagram and tweet your friends and family members back home, do put those phones down long enough to get to know your fellow classmates. Your class is exceptionally talented, diverse, multifaceted and dynamic.

I wanted to share more details about “you” with you. Among you, there are:

Ten high school student body presidents, two senior class presidents, 22 yearbook editors, 19 newspaper editors, nine literary magazine editors, six published authors, captains of 227 athletic teams and 47 Model UN participants. You have four Boy Scout Eagle Award recipients among you and six Girl Scout Gold Award recipients.

Forty-eight of you participated in choir in high school, 44 of you were involved in theatre and 66 of you were band or orchestra participants, including four first chair violinists and three drum majors or majorettes. Twelve of you are equestrians, and 38 of you are dancers. And, to get a little more specific, among you is an American record holder in sprints at the Paralympic Games, the youngest docent at the Henry Clay Estate in Lexington, KY, a patent holder for PVC flooring, the founder of a thrift store, an environmental activist engaged in a federal legal case on climate change, a four-time participant in National November Writing Month, a nationally ranked tennis player, an internationally competitive squash player, a student who carried the Olympic torch during the Beijing Olympic games and the founder of a 1940s jazz band called Carl and the Hamiltones (in case you want to look them up on YouTube).

And a third of you indicated you have been involved in community service, including serving as a volunteer firefighter, a hospice caregiver, as the Washington Hospital volunteer chairperson, working in the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa, serving as a youth ministry leader, as project coordinator for Common Humanity, working as a volunteer at the Casa Myrna Women’s Shelter, co-founder of an organization called Bracelets of Hope, providing peer counseling through Project TEENS and serving as a volunteer for Operation Smile. You have volunteered your time and talents at nursing homes and children’s camps; with the Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Club, the Cub Scouts and environmental organizations; at animal shelters, blood drives, food banks and through your schools’ Key Leader Clubs (of which 46 of you have also been president). And you have traveled beyond your home communities to places like China, Panama, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam, among other locations, to serve those in need.

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, useful liberal arts education and understood that the next four years here will mold your future personal and professional lives.

So, even though you are new to Dickinson, you are, already, a Dickinsonian.

President Ensign, on behalf of the Office of Admissions, it is with much pride and pleasure that I present to you the exceptionally talented class of 2021.

2017 Convocation Remarks by President Ensign