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Convocation Ceremony 2019

Convocation Ceremony 2019

(bright orchestral music) – [Announcer] Good evening. Please welcome our distinguished members of the platform party. Suresh Garimella, President
of the University of Vermont and Professor of Mechanical Engineering. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Patricia Prelock, Provost
and Senior Vice President, and Professor of Communication
Sciences and Disorders, and Professor of Pediatrics. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Thomas Chittenden, University Marshal, and President of the Faculty Senate, and Senior Lecturer,
Grossman School of Business. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Jillian Scannell, Class of 2020, President of the Student
Government Association. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Jessica Bocanegra, Class of 2020, President of the Graduate Student Senate. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Afi Ahmadi, Class of 1993, President of the Alumni Association. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Steven Lunna, President
of the Staff Council. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) And Hannah Rameaka, Class of 2020, President of the Student
Alumni Association. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) To open our ceremony today, please welcome University Marshal and President of the Faculty
Senate, Thomas Chittenden, Senior Lecturer in the
Grossman School of Business. (audience applauding) – Thank you. Here now, in the presence of members of the faculty and
administration, trustees, alumni, honored guests,
parents and friends, new students, returning students, and students of the Class of 2023, the 2019 Convocation is hereby convened. Good evening and welcome. Let me begin by introducing
our University Herald, Lisa Schnell, Associate
Professor of English. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Thank you. The mace I carry was
presented to the university by the class of 1927, and is used in all formal university ceremonies. The four images on its
silver crown symbolize the founding of the university, learning, spiritual guidance and friendship. Imprinted on the university
seal is the university motto, which literally means, for
virtuous studies and matters. I think our program tonight
is off to a great start. That was a splendid performance by the University of Vermont Pep Band, under the direction of– (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) under the direction of
co-directors Neil Wacek and Jack Curtis. Welcome to UVM, enjoy the evening. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) – [Announcer] Now please
welcome Jillian Scannell, Class of 2020, the President of your Student Government Association. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) – Greetings and welcome to UVM. (clapping) Yeah! (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) So three years ago, I was
seated right where you are, and while I don’t remember the specifics of my convocation, I remember the feeling, and I felt overwhelmed. You’ve just spent the weekend
attending university events and learning more about campus life, and tomorrow will be your
first day of classes. In this very moment, you
might be feeling excited or anxious or nervous, or
maybe even a little bit lonely, but I want you to remember
that you’re surrounded by many people in this room
who have similar feelings. Everything seems new and possible, but there are sort of so many
options and opportunities, it’s hard to know which path to choose. To be honest, I spent my
first few months at UVM in a daze, overwhelmed
by what I knew I wanted, which was to make lifelong friends, and get involved on
campus, but I didn’t know how to actually make that happen. Questions like, how am
I gonna get to class, what club should I join,
how am I gonna meet people, who am I gonna eat lunch with? It weighed on me, it was a lot. So I did exactly what I’ll
encourage all of you to do, I tried things, I showed up. One of the best things
about being in college is that you have many pathways to explore. You’ve all been given these pins, signifying a Catamount
mantra, explorers forever. Follow your curiosity, and see
which path it leads you down. Go to meetings of clubs
that sound interesting, join your hall’s intermural team, explore classes of your
different interests, go to professors’ office hours. The opportunities are endless. Stay curious, and put yourself out there, and then, see what happens. I know this is a lot
easier said than done. Halfway through my first
semester, I wasn’t even close to feeling connected on campus yet. But this changed the morning after the 2016 Presidential Election. My Intro to Environmental
Studies professor, Amy Seidl, made space in
our 250 person lecture for individuals to share
how they were feeling. And there were people with
wildly different perspectives, but we were able to have
a productive conversation, and a different type of learning happened. It wasn’t about concepts
or theories anymore. It was real life, and that’s
what made it so powerful. Our 50 minute class flew by,
and our professor offered to get bagels and bring students together that Saturday morning. This invitation sparked my interest, but honestly, my first
thought was, what should, why am I there? That weekend, I stopped overthinking it, and I went to that meeting, but our Saturday morning
gathering was more than just bagels and conversation. Professor Seidl and my
peers created a space that sparked my passion for advocacy. Following that experience, I became one of the leading members
of a group of students who held the rally on Inauguration Day, and brought a bus of students
to the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. UVM faculty and staff are invested in you, and opportunities like
this one, they’re abundant. So here’s my pro tip
for all of you tonight. Say yes to the bagel moments, because it could literally
change everything. All you have to do is show up. With that activism work,
I felt like I was finally starting to find my place at UVM. So when the Student Government Association was looking for appointments to the Committee on the Environment, I knew I would be a great fit. You might assume from me
standing here as SGA President, how the interview went, but I actually didn’t get the position. The reason I’m here today is what happened after I didn’t get that position. Just when I felt like I had
finally figured it all out, I got knocked down, and to be honest, I stayed down for a little
while, and that’s okay. I needed time to figure
out and just be upset, and work through my self doubt, and even though I didn’t get the position I originally wanted, that
didn’t change the fact that I still thought
I would be good at it, so with the support of my friends, I ran at the end of the semester, and got a seat as a Senator. Not getting it on that
first time really clarified for me how committed
I was to trying again. I share this with all
of you because honestly, you’re likely to have setbacks. And as UVM Class of 1879 graduate, John Dewey reminds us, the
person who really thinks learns as much from their failures as they do from their successes. You are about to embark on a journey that will lead you on twists and turns you cannot even imagine right now. You’re going to have
opportunities, successes, and yes, a few missteps, but
remember that your journey wasn’t meant to be traveled alone. So many people here want to support you, so please reach out and ask for help, but also offer it to one another. I have all the faith in the
world that after much exploring, you will each find your
way, and everything, classes, friends, work, all of it, it will all fall into place. Good luck on your journey, Catamounts. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) – [Announcer] It is now
my privilege to introduce the President of the
University of Vermont, and Professor of Mechanical
Engineering, Suresh Garimella. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) – Wow. What a crowd. Greetings. You’re my inaugural class,
I hope you all know this. The class I’m coming
into UVM with, as well. We all made a wise decision
to come this great university. This is a time of big
transitions in your life, as it is in mine. We left our two children in
college just about 10 days back and came back here to an empty nest, but now, that empty nest is
filled with 10,000 students. What more could we ask for? I came to UVM, and I
thought you’d be curious, because of its land grant heritage. I hope that, as you spend time at UVM, you understand better what that means, what that means to me, and what
that means to the community. The land grant mission
speaks to our responsibility, our solemn responsibility
to bring the assets of the university, to
bear on our community. And I came because of the
high quality of our students and our faculty, and our
educational and research programs. And of course, it didn’t
hurt that Burlington is among the most beautiful places on Earth. I hope you’ve all been
discovering that yourselves. This campus has transformed
in the last few years, in many ways, including with
new learning laboratories, with living spaces that have been built, that I hope some of you are enjoying, beautiful historic buildings
have been renovated, innovative degree programs
have been created. All of this is focused on
making this a robust community for the 21st century, where
you can learn and discover and tackle the big challenges of the day. You’re joining one of the most
historic and distinguished universities in America. This was among the first universities to admit women as students. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Our Phi Beta Kappa chapter
was the nation’s first to admit women, and then, to admit an African-American member. That requires some, too. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) UVM is a place that emphasizes
sustainable stewardship of our climate and the environment, a place that’s fiercely
proud of its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Our state is the home state of
Senator Justin Smith Morrill, who conceived the land grant mission that President Abraham
Lincoln signed into law. I have Senator Morrill’s
desk in my office, if you wanna come see it. I was gonna try and steal this lectern, not sure if you’re aware, this is called the John Dewey Lectern, and if you don’t know who John Dewey is, Jillian mentioned him, please look him up. He is one of our treasured
parts of our history. Our students are
Fulbright, Udall, Goldwater and Truman Scholars, and
for the fifth year in a row, our incoming class, that’s you, has the highest academic
credentials in our history in terms of SAT scores, ACT
scores, and so much more. Yes, give yourself a very big hand. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) And on the other end of
things, you’ll also be happy to know that our four year graduation rate is at an all-time high. We’re among the top 6%
of public universities in the nation in terms of
graduation rates in four years. So you, with all your
academic background, go ahead. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Will help us improve upon
that graduation rate, and I mentioned Truman Scholars. Not everyone can do this,
but our friend, Jillian, who just spoke, she’s one of those. Look up how difficult it is
to get a Truman Scholarship, and do your best to emulate that. So I still remember well the apprehension and the excitement I felt when I was at my first week in college. In some ways, as the
new president coming in, leaving everything that
I was very comfortable and familiar with for 20 years in Indiana, I’m right there with you. In particular, my son is
starting as a freshman at Purdue, and is going through the
same kinds of feelings that you are here at UVM. And my wife and I, she’s here, Lakshmi, is in the front row
here, we’re going through the same withdrawal symptoms
that your parents are. Call them often. You may not need to do
so, but they do, please. I chatted with some of you during move in, but I hope that more of
you will stop and say hello when we run into each other on campus. Don’t just, just don’t
ask me for directions yet, because I think you and I
will need to get to know the campus and the city
of Burlington together. Your time at the university
is the time of your life to grow, to listen, to learn from others, to share your perspectives,
to open your minds and horizons to diverse ways of thinking, and to perspectives that
are different from yours. Make the best use of this time. This is your new home, and
the university’s the best time in your lives to explore
and work through issues you encounter, both familiar
ones and unfamiliar ones. Your professors and fellow
students, our staff, and even our committed alumni are all part of a vibrant ecosystem for learning, discovery and exploration. We will support, challenge
and encourage you tomorrow, this year, and throughout
your entire journey at UVM. You never have to feel like
you’re doing this alone. Embrace the opportunities for learning. Jillian said this, too,
working side by side with your professors in research labs, in studios, in the field,
through service learning and community involvement, via internships and externships, and through international
study abroad programs. Get engaged with the community. This is something Catamounts
are very proud of. I’d stayed back in the dorms during one of my semester breaks when I was like you, to participate in a program
helping underprivileged middle and high school students
learn math and science. Decades later of this, one
of the things I remember about that time is the satisfaction I had in doing that kind of
thing, and the experience that I gained in two different
industrial internships I had, and the research internship
that I went through, which led to my writing
my first research paper. I hope you’ll find your
own set of options at UVM. Think of this as an explorer’s journey, of personal and intellectual discovery. How you focus your energies,
the opportunities you embrace, and the issues you choose
to get involved with, will shape you for the rest of your life, and we will be there with you. We’re each stepping out tonight
together on this journey. You’ll be my first graduating class, and I’ll be there to
shake each of your hands. We will shape this community
and that experience will shape us into better human beings, wiser and more compassionate. We’re here with you to make your learning and this time of discovery
all that you want it to be. Let’s make it count. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) – [Announcer] Please welcome Provost and Senior Vice President, and Professor of Communication
Sciences and Disorders and Professor of Pediatrics,
Patricia Prelock. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) – Good evening, Class of 2023. Let’s go, Catamounts. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Our university experience
is rich in traditions, symbols and ceremonies. This ceremony, Convocation,
marks the beginning of your college career,
and is your formal welcome to our community. You are joining our community,
not only as a student, and as a scholar, but as a learner, whose thoughts, words and ideas, as well as your actions will be nurtured and transformed through
interactions with staff, your peers, faculty, and our
entire university community. Challenge yourself to be engaged, and stayed engaged, as you
can and will have an impact on every aspect of this campus life, one that we all share. Our ceremony tonight will conclude on the university’s Historic Green. The land our Green occupies was donated by Ira Allen in 1791. The Green was once
covered in stately pines. Later, it became a field
where sheep grazed. It was a military encampment
during the War of 1812, and has become home to
festivities of all kinds: rallies, festivals, and celebrations for more than 228 years. Tonight, you will become
part of the Green’s history, as you participate in
the Twilight Induction. This induction acknowledges
our collective responsibility for our academic and personal success of every member of our community. To help ensure that success, we are guided by the values expressed
in our common ground. I know these are terms that you’ve heard, that are on your fans
and on your t-shirts. They are: Respect, integrity, innovation, openness, justice and responsibility. As the university’s
Chief Academic Officer, I wanna share with you some
thoughts on these principles from an academic perspective. So let’s start with respect. You demonstrate respect
for your academic community by coming to class
prepared, by seeking support when you need it, and by helping to create a positive learning environment
for both your professors and your fellow students. I want and expect our students
to have a mindful presence, both inside and outside the classroom. Be wary of those distractions,
things like texts, Snapchat, Instagram, emails
that might compromise your ability to truly be present, so that you can listen to a lecture, engage in a classroom discussion,
or talk with a friend. The second principle is integrity. We expect you to bring
the very best of yourself to your studies and to our campus. Approach all that you do here with a sense of decency, fairness,
honesty, and sincerity. Don’t be a bystander. Tell the truth, take
responsibility for your actions, and forgive yourself and
others when mistakes are made. The next principle, innovation. There is no doubt this is
the time of grand challenges. We are counting on you, though, to explore, think, discover
and solve problems in new ways, ways that have not been
imagined or invented yet. College is your opportunity to develop your curiosity, your
creativity and your commitment to always asking the next question. Push yourself to think in different ways, and challenge yourself
to consider the capacity you have to make a difference. The next principle, openness. Listen with empathy and openness. Oliver Wendell Holmes tells us, “It is the province of knowledge to speak, “and it is the privilege
of wisdom to listen.” I challenge you to create
opportunities and space for others to share
their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with you. Learn from the advice
and reflection of others. Seek out perspectives
different from your own. Remember some of the
messages that Stacey Miller talked with you about on Friday evening. Select courses that will
expand your worldview, or stretch that part of your
brain that’s happier at rest. Resist the urge to confirm
that what you think you know and be open to all that you have to learn. Give yourself a chance to
grow and learn to listen. Justice. For too long, our books, maps, histories, and policies and systems
have excluded too many. As a society, we are
beginning to recognize, but you still must bring a
healthy dose of skepticism to your studies. Think critically,
recognize your own biases, and consider the needs
and perspectives of others in all that you do. Be true to yourself. This will not always be an easy task. It may require you to disagree
with expected thinking. It may require you to
assert yourself in a way that is frowned upon by others. But if you remain authentic
and genuine in your thinking and engage with mutual
respect and positive regard, you will experience true fulfillment. Finally, responsibility. Only about 6% of the world’s population has a college degree. The academic opportunity
that lies before you is both a privilege and a responsibility. Do not squander your time
here, and do not detract from the experience and efforts of others. Challenge yourself to make full use of the resources available to you, and challenge your
classmates to do the same. Your faculty, the administration,
and our incredible staff recognize our responsibility to you, to create an environment
in which you will thrive. In a few moments, amid the
rhythms of the Taiko Drummers, we will walk to the Green together. Remember your mindful presence while you’re walking down Main Street. Take pride in the work and accomplishments that led you to the University of Vermont, and to this special moment. Legends say that hummingbirds
float free of time, carrying our hopes of
love, joy, and celebration. The hummingbird’s
delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning, and that laughter is
life’s sweetest creation. Or maybe, it’s a little magic. So, I thought I’d end my
message with a little magic, as you experience a
transformation as a leader and a difference maker. So are you ready for a little magic? (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Okay. (laughing) (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) So I’m sure you’ve thought
a lot about what you think should be happening in your
first year in college, right? And you’re thinking about,
oh, these are my ideas and Stacey Miller talked to
us a little bit about this, but what’s important at
UVM is that you learn to transform your ideas, so we
want you to think differently about what you’re learning. Remember that book of
rules that Stacey had, and she said, “Think differently about how “you might be working through
what you’re learning at UVM.” And so.
– Whoa! (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) – Allow yourself to think differently. My hope for you is that
you learn the university better than you found it, and
even better than it found you. Let’s make a difference, Catamounts. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) – [Announcer] Now please
welcome the Cat’s Meow, Hit Paws, Top Cats, and ZEST, who will the school alma mater acapella. You will find the words on
the inside of your programs. Please stand. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) (metronome humming) ♪ Ooh ♪ ♪ Ah, doo ♪ ♪ From the lofty peaks of Mansfield ♪ ♪ To the shores of Lake Champlain ♪ ♪ Comes a mighty swelling chorus ♪ ♪ Whose echo will remain ♪ ♪ Vermont, Vermont, Vermont ♪ ♪ Our University ♪ ♪ Thy loyal sons and daughters ♪ ♪ Sing in love and praise to Thee ♪ ♪ Vermont, Vermont, Vermont ♪ ♪ Our University ♪ ♪ Thy loyal sons and daughters ♪ ♪ Sing in love and praise to Thee ♪ ♪ Shadows falling ‘cross the campus ♪ ♪ Changing seasons’ wond’rous scenes ♪ ♪ Stir our thoughts of Alma Mater ♪ ♪ And her colors Gold and Green ♪ ♪ Vermont, Vermont, Vermont ♪ ♪ Our University ♪ ♪ Thy loyal sons and daughters ♪ ♪ Sing in love and praise to Thee ♪ ♪ Vermont, Vermont, Vermont ♪ ♪ Our University ♪ ♪ Thy loyal sons and daughters ♪ ♪ Sing in love and praise to Thee ♪ (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) – [Announcer] Please be seated. Let’s give them another
hand, that was just awesome. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Please welcome, once
again, University Marshal and President of the Faculty
Senate, Thomas Chittenden (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) – (clearing throat)
Please be seated, great. Thank you all for coming. I officially declare these
convocation proceedings closed. We hope you will join us
on the University Green for the Twilight Induction Ceremony. Please remain seated, and
allow the platform party to pass before exiting the gym. Ushers will give you
instructions on exiting the gym. Please keep your program
with you, as you will need it for the Twilight Induction Ceremony. In addition, please be sure
to take a candle on your way out of the gym, to use at the
Twilight Induction Ceremony. Our exit music will performed
by the UVM Pep Band, under the direction– (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) Okay. Very popular pep band,
under the direction, again, of Neil Wacek and Jack Curtis. Thank you and have a good evening. (audience cheering)
(audience applauding) (bright band music)

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