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Full Text: Introduction Convocation, Friday, August 20, 2021


President, Dr. Julia Jasken

Welcome to McDaniel, Class of 2025 and transfer students. As President of McDaniel College, it is my distinct privilege today to welcome you to your introduction convocation and officially welcome you into the McDaniel family.

Before we get started, I would like to thank all of the incredible volunteers who were part of our move-in crew yesterday. If you volunteered, would you please stand and be recognized?

My name is Julia Jasken, and a few months ago I had the honor of beginning my tenure as McDaniel College’s tenth President. My husband David, our two sons, Iain and Kyle, and our adopted dog, Kira, live in the big white house across from the theater. You will often see us taking Kira for a walk around campus, and if you do, please feel free to join us. We are looking forward to seeing you at your sporting competitions, theatre performances, and organization events. We also look forward to opening our home for student dinners and receptions in the coming months, so please be on the lookout for an invitation! We are so glad that you are here and look forward to getting to know you.

While I will invite our Provost to the podium to introduce you to our faculty in a few minutes, I wanted to take a moment to publicly recognize the collective work of our faculty. Before I became President, I had the privilege to work alongside these brilliant professors, as a professor myself and then as Provost, and can attest to the incredible value they bring to our students’ lives. Students, soak up all you can from these talented professors. They will be your partners for the next four years, and perhaps even beyond your time on the Hill. They are experts in their field and can help you find your own passion – maybe one you haven’t even discovered yet. Their passion and enthusiasm for their work is contagious and it will inspire you - I know it inspires me.

Now let’s proceed with the convocation. First, we will hear from our Provost, Dr. Rosa Rivera-Hainaj, then our Dean of Students, Liz Towle, and finally I will be back to deliver a brief convocation address. Afterwards, you will participate in the college’s most time-honored tradition: the ringing of the Old Main Bell to signify your official entrance into the college. It is now my pleasure to introduce our Provost, Dr. Rivera-Hainaj.

Presentation of the Faculty

Provost, Dr. Rivera-Hainaj:

Dear students: transfer and our incoming Class of 2025! Welcome to McDaniel! My name is Rosa Rivera-Hainaj, and I am the Provost at McDaniel College and just like you I just started climbing The Hill this summer. And this journey has been possible because I stand on the shoulders of giants.

My journey to McDaniel really started in Ponce, PR, where I grew up with my parents and siblings: my father was a professor of Chemistry, and my mother was a junior high school science teacher. I grew up engaged in the deep roots of education and the opportunities that came with it. You see, my father and mother are first-generation college graduates (La Católica alumni) who grew up during and after World War II.

Education was not optional in our family; my parents knew first-hand the benefits that derive from higher education. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico – MayagÜez (also known as El Colegio); and then a Doctorate in Biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. I am proud to say that I am the first in my family to earn a doctorate.

But, unlike many of my peers in graduate school, I knew that I wanted to be in the classroom with students and later on become a leader in higher education. As a young professor, I learned so much from my colleagues and students, who inspired me to continue this journey.

As the Academic Leader at McDaniel (yes, that is what Provost means 😊), it’s my pleasure to introduce you today to the brilliant faculty who will inspire you, stimulate your minds and support you during your time here on the Hill. I know you have been in touch with some of them as your advisors this summer, and over the next few days you will meet them in person. I want to take this opportunity to share with you a little more about what really makes this faculty so remarkable and why they will be such an important part of your lives during the next four years.

When they are not in their classrooms and offices, McDaniel faculty members are doing research in our libraries and laboratories, publishing articles and books, and attending conferences and meetings around the world. McDaniel professors are experts in their fields — in reality, 99 percent of our tenure-track faculty hold the highest degree in their disciplines. But what makes our expert faculty most special are the personal connections they will form with each of you as they become your mentors and coaches.

Connection is the hallmark of our living-learning community here at McDaniel. Starting this semester, your professors will help you connect academic concepts in compelling and sometimes surprising ways. If you’re enrolled this fall in Professor Paul Zajac’s first-year seminar “Shakespeare’s Game of Thrones,” you’ll learn that violence, political intrigue, religious conflict, sex, spies and magic, all key features in HBO’s Game of Thrones, are also key features in Shakespeare’s works and his view of politics and history.

If you have the opportunity to participate in a January term travel trip perhaps you will choose Professor Leahy’s venture to “The Emerald Island”. You will visit both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (which remains part of the United Kingdom), examining the troubled past of this area and the “state of the “Good Friday Agreement” as it stands today. Not only will you visit museums and historical sites, but you will have the opportunity to meet with representatives of both parliaments, the press from both sides and university students. Ireland has the opportunity to vote to become one in the future. After this trip, will you have a prediction which way the vote will go?

Research collaborations with your professors will connect what you’ve already learned in classrooms to “ah-ha” moments of discovery and to the generation of new knowledge. Many of our faculty have shaped their research agendas to enable them to co-publish with their students, as is the case with the student researchers working in the laboratories of Cheng Huang, Associate Professor of Biology, where students study the central nervous system of zebrafish OR working with Spencer Hamblen, Professor of Mathematics on Waring’s problem. Perhaps you will participate in the Model United Nations, a conference sponsored by the Political Science and International Studies department. This conference is an educational simulation where students can learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations. At a Model UN conference, students work as the representative of a country, organization or person and must solve a problem with other delegates from around the world.

There are so many ways to connect with your professors and discover what research interests you share with them in kinesiology, physics, computer science, sociology, world languages, English, theatre arts and more — you’re sure to add to your resume and, who knows, you just might find a new passion along the way.

I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to the first-year team who has worked tirelessly over the summer to make sure everything was ready for your arrival. Will you please stand as I call your name?

  • Professor Becky Carpenter, Director of First-Year Programs
  • Erin Benevento, Director of the First Year Experience
  • Tommy Schoolman, Academic Life Counselor for First Year Students

Let’s please give this group a collective round of applause for all of their great work.

I also wanted to extend a sincere note of gratitude to the faculty and staff who helped run McDaniel Local this year. Could you please stand if you were involved in that effort?

Let’s please give this group a collective round of applause for all of their great work.

The professors, deans, and staff members here at McDaniel are a well-connected group, and they will point you to a world of possibilities. You will hear their voices around you. Read this article. Attend this concert. Meet this alumnus. Submit your innovative idea to our entrepreneurship competition. Study in Budapest at our McDaniel Europe campus.

I have this advice: accept their invitations to engage deeply in your educational experience, both within the classroom and beyond.

The Economics and Business Administration department has a new partnership that is starting this fall between McDaniel and Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, a collaboration to offer a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program. Perhaps you will choose the new 4+1 program which includes a bachelor’s degree from McDaniel and a Master of Science degree in either Finance or Marketing from Carey Business School. You could be one of the first students to sign on for this accelerated degree program.

You took your first step during McDaniel local when you planted a tree at the McDaniel Environmental Center under the guidance of Jason Scullion, Professor of Environmental Studies. Like your tree, every experience and opportunity you take you will grow here on the hill and plant deep roots to last a lifetime.

McDaniel faculty are an exceptional group of academics. They will offer you a diverse learning environment in which you will learn and begin to look at the world with new eyes. They will offer you opportunities both in and out of the classroom. I encourage you to take advantage of what they have to offer. Always know they are here to help you succeed. Reach out to them. Visit them during their office hours. They will advise you and mentor you. They will inspire you. You have the privilege of studying with one of the finest groups of professors anywhere in the world.

And now, I ask the entire faculty please stand and be recognized. It is my pleasure to present to you the faculty of McDaniel College.

Presentation of New Students

Dean of Students, Liz Towle

Good Evening transfer students and the Class of 2025. I am Liz Towle, the Dean of Students and it is my privilege to welcome you to the Hill. If you remember nothing else about what I say for the next few minutes, please remember this – it’s Liz TOWLE, not Towel, not Towley, not Tollee – it’s TOWLE

Okay, now that we’ve covered me … let’s talk about you …

Please stand and remain standing if the following statement applies to you and take note of who else is standing with you:

  • I grew up outside the state of Maryland (sit)
  • I have an older sibling. (sit)
  • I was very involved in community service in high school. (sit)
  • I have seen every Rocky movie at least once, if not more than once.
  • I participated in a high school sport. (sit)
  • I enjoy eating dinner with my large extended family (however you define your family).
  • I have never done my own laundry before coming to College?
  • I am from New England and a die-hard fan of the New England Patriots. Tom Brady who? (sit)

One of the many wonderful things about McDaniel is that we all have connections to one another - we may not always see or realize the connections, but they exist and are ready to be discovered. All of you who stood have something in common with me and one another. When you stood up and looked around at the others who were standing were you at all surprised?

So here’s the last statement and it’s True or False: (you don’t actually have to stand for this one though – just think about it)

And the statement is … I believe that college will be the best 4 years of my life … never heard that before, right.

Here’s the crazy thing about the statement and your answers– There is no pre-determined true false answer …it’s your choice! You choose! It’s up to you! It could be either and some days and weeks, months – it will be both!

Some days are going to be amazing and you are going to feel invincible – impossible to defeat or destroy. You are going to feel like your face should appear on one of the banners flying on campus! Soak in these moments and remember those feelings because …

Some days are going to be “bad days”. Some days you may find yourself questioning almost everything – is McDaniel the place for me, am I smart enough to be here, can I do this, why do I feel so different than everyone around me, how come everyone else has figured this college thing out and in two days have found a new BFF, and why is all my laundry pink?

When these difficult days come, think back to how you felt the day you wanted your face on a banner flying on campus - and remember – bad days don’t last, ride them out, as I like to say to my family … “strap on some coping skills” – things will get better - if you choose. And this cycle will repeat because this cycle is life – it’s not just college life – its life! And the fact that you are going to have rotten days and survive those actually benefits you more than having good days. Anyone can have a good day. Managing the bad days and getting through them and then realizing that you did … realizing that you got through because of the choices you made and how you persevered … that’s a real accomplishment. In the words of Rocky Balboa,

You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.

You have already made one excellent decision that will help you keep moving forward … you have chosen McDaniel College and we, your new community will support you and encourage you every step of the way even when the hard hits come.

It is so important that you realize that the faculty and staff and students at McDaniel are rooting for you, we are in your corner, and our role is to encourage you to explore and find whatever brings your life meaning and fulfillment not only for the next 4 years but beyond. We can’t and won’t do it for you, but we will do it alongside you.

So Go and find the people and resources on campus who are waiting and wanting to help you and Accept their help! You will probably need less and less as time goes on but right now – you may need some help – listen to the counsel that people offer – and learn from them!

To give you a jump start on the learning process I thought I would share some tips from some of the best resources on the campus – the sophomores, juniors and seniors – who are serving as resident assistants, peer mentors, EDGE mentors and engagement peers. I asked them to share some of their #McDaniel life hacks.

Here’s what they told me …

  • About professors … Don’t be afraid of them, go to their office hours and introduce yourself. Reaching out to them when you need help is better than being and looking confused.
  • Class and Study Tips … Listen and participate in class. Print each class syllabus, write everything down, use a calendar app, find your best method for studying and stick with it. Don’t feel pressured by the way roommates and friends study … or don’t study.
  • Getting involved on campus … go to the involvement fair (September 8) and explore your options, but don’t join all of them, narrow it down and join the ones that are a best fit, joining student organizations helps you meet a group of people with similar interests, go to Green Terror Program (GTP) events because you normally get food and other free stuff
  • About campus resources … use the Wellness Center – they have helpful counselors to talk to for free, use the library, it’s great for studying and having alone time, get on your RAs good side and be good
  • About making connections with peers … step out of your comfort zone, talk to people on your floor and in classes, prop your room door open to make friends, don’t be a hermit

And if making friends does not come easy, don’t worry, one student leader said that time management will be your best friend and when things get busy to remember the positive in what you do.

Here are a few other highlights from the #McDaniel Life Hacks…

  • Avoid the Swedish meatballs
  • Wearing flip flops is not a good idea
  • Do your laundry late at night. You will typically never have to wait for a machine.
  • Get a parking pass … don’t think they won’t figure out who you are.
  • Always have your ID card with you
  • When commuting always leave 5-10 minutes earlier than the expected time
  • If you decide to live with your friends next year, don’t have an anonymous suggestion box (it will become very passive aggressive)
  • Get up at 6am to get the best ducks and Duck Day prizes on GTP’s Duck Day
  • Just keep breathing and pray GLAR is good.

And finally, one of your peers quoted Ghandi:

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

She writes “These words are what taught me to have a good time on the Hill.” And that’s exactly what I wish for all of you… a challenging and fulfilling good experience on the Hill that has many more good days than bad days, where you keep moving forward no matter how hard life hits you, and most importantly you avoid the Swedish meatballs.

Welcome to Your Hill.

Convocation Address

President, Dr. Julia Jasken

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” So I’m going to check that one off my list for today. You see, while I have stood at this podium for the past six years as Provost, this is my first time standing here as President. It’s new. It’s exciting. And it’s a little bit scary. I’m sure you can probably relate – you have mastered the art of being a high school student, but this is your first time as a college student. It looks the same, but it feels a little different. I understand. But I am also here to tell you that while beginnings can be intimidating, there is also a lot of opportunity that lies ahead, and I am excited to be on this journey with you.

While I am new to my position as President, I have had the pleasure to be a part of the McDaniel College community for many years, first as a professor, then as Provost and now as President. Over the years, I have found that there are many things that make McDaniel such a special place, but two of them stand out the most: community and opportunity.

Back in fall 2003, I traveled to Westminster with my husband David and our newborn son Iain, to begin my job as a professor in the English department. One of the things that became evident in my first few days on the Hill was the incredible spirit of community that radiates throughout this campus. Everywhere I went there was always a smiling face and someone willing to help. That sense of community continues on still today. I am so grateful for the many members of this community who served as mentors, as role models, and most importantly, as friends, and made my arrival on campus such a positive experience. Some of you might be familiar with the book, Colleges That Change Lives, written by Loren Pope. As Mr. Pope begins his description of McDaniel College he says, “If you are looking for a college free from pretense and full of genuine care, put McDaniel at the top of your list.” Those aren’t just words on a page, it is who we are – that is McDaniel College.

Today, you also officially join the company of 152 years of graduates who have called McDaniel (or Western Maryland) their alma mater. The cumulative lifetime achievements of our alumni are extraordinary. They discovered legionnaires’ disease and drugs to fight HIV. They have been the National Teacher of the Year. They were the world’s foremost authority on big cats. They have built multi-billion-dollar international corporations. They are founding inductees into the Public Relations Hall of Fame. They have won the Pulitzer Prize. They are senior executives at Fortune 500 companies. They anchor TV newscasts. They have created, World of Warcraft, the largest online game in the world. They have argued cases before the Supreme Court in their twenties. Eleven of them have been generals. They are senators and delegates and ambassadors to foreign countries. They are high school principals, superintendents, teachers, and coaches. Equally important, some of them are your parents. Not only are these amazing alumni passionate advocates for this college but they are also deeply committed to helping our students succeed. You may have seen some of them yesterday greeting our new families and helping students bring in their belongings to door rooms. You’ll also find them in classrooms serving as guest lecturers, cheering on our student-athletes at sporting events, hosting students at various Alumni Association events, and eventually cheering you on as you walk across the stage to receive your diploma. These talented alumni are an excellent resource for you so don’t be afraid to reach out to them.

In February, we host an “I Love the Hill Day” where we ask alumni, students, faculty and staff to tell us why they love the Hill. One of the top responses we receive is, “the connections that I made on campus.” Whether you join one of over 50 student organizations, join a summer research team or connect with alumni through our many Alumni Association Events, there are endless ways to get engaged and find support. As our alma mater suggests, “College ties can ne’er be broken, formed upon the Hill”. The connections you make here are sure to last a lifetime.

The other thing I quickly learned about McDaniel is there is no shortage of opportunity. If you are interested in developing the widest view of the world possible, I encourage you to consider studying abroad. There are over 50 countries to choose from through more than 30 partnerships McDaniel College has established. I have had so many alumni tell me that the number one greatest opportunity they were given as a student was to travel abroad and experience a different culture. Brooke Hain, our Associate Director of International & Off Campus Programs, is ready and excited to help get you connected. Please reach out to her.

By far one of my proudest accomplishments has been the opportunity to work with faculty and staff in designing and implementing the college’s signature McDaniel Commitment. This program provides students with a scaffolded four-year program of individualized mentorship, alumni engagement, experiential learning and career development, ensuring students leave McDaniel with the tools they need to successfully embark on the next stage of their personal and professional journeys. The commitment was developed with you in mind – to help you find out more about yourself, and your passions and in so doing, ultimately design the most fulfilling future possible! Take advantage of this opportunity, and then use what you learn to go change the world.

Finally, and most importantly, I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to learn from one another. It is likely that while you are here on the Hill, you will encounter someone who shares a different perspective than you. I think author Stephen (Ste-ven) Covey said it best when he advised, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In other words, listen, reflect and then engage respectfully. There will be times when you will just have to agree to disagree, and that’s ok too. Being in an uncomfortable space is not always easy but it does help us grow. Be open to new experiences and opportunities, you may just be surprised where it leads you.

I would also encourage you to get involved in the great work that has been happening on campus regarding the College’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. The College’s DEI statement, unanimously approved by the board of trustees in August of 2020, clearly demonstrates the college’s full commitment to “breaking down walls of division, rejecting acts of exclusion, and challenging injustice, pre-judice and ethno-centrism.” Although we have made steady progress over the last several years, we must not lose sight of the fact that important work remains ahead of us. I am proud to be a part of a community that is committed to Black Lives, to working toward justice and a true sense of belonging, and I remain dedicated to doing all that I can to ensure that McDaniel is a welcoming, equitable, and inclusive environment for all who step foot on our campus. I hope you will join me in these efforts.

McDaniel truly is a special place and one that changes lives. I know this because it has changed mine. I didn’t come to McDaniel expecting that I would someday move into administration, and I certainly never expected to receive the honor of becoming McDaniel’s tenth president. And yet, here I am. My journey at McDaniel is an example of the wide-lens opportunities that become available to those who have developed the habits of mind that lie at the heart of a liberal arts education. I can’t wait to see where your journey takes you on the Hill and help celebrate all of the milestones along the way.

Welcome to McDaniel! We are so glad to have you here.

While we would generally conclude this special occasion with the singing of our Alma Mater, unfortunately current COVID-19 restrictions will prevent us from doing so this year. Instead, we will conclude our ceremony by listening to our Alma Mater and taking the opportunity to truly reflect on its words. A copy of the Alma Mater can be found on your seat. Please stand.

*The Alma Mater

College ties can ne'er be broken

Formed upon The Hill.

Far surpassing wealth unspoken

They are with us still.

Hail, McDaniel! Hail, all Hail!

Echo softly from each heart.

We'll be ever loyal to thee

’Til we from life shall part.

“It is my privilege to formally introduce you into the McDaniel College community and I do so with all the obligations, rights, and privileges that are integral to the community.

Congratulations and welcome.

Students, please remain seated until the entire Faculty have processed out; you will be dismissed by row. You will then proceed to Memorial Plaza for the Bell Ringing to officially “ring in!” Faculty, please follow the platform party to memorial plaza.