As students stepped into the Ben Light Gymnasium Monday, they also stepped into a new chapter of their lives.
President Tom Rochon, along with several faculty members and students, advised the incoming class to view college as the first step in their lifelong journeys.
“By the time you complete your journey of learning, you should be wealthy with experience and insight,” he said. “I do want to say that I hope your time here will only be part of your journey. It is continuous — and your time at Ithaca College will be a part that is particularly rich.”
Despite rough weather from Hurricane Irene, Monday’s sunny skies set a positive tone for the class of 2015 at the 2011 Convocation ceremony.
The freshmen buzzed with anticipation as they filtered into this year’s introductory gathering at 11 a.m. Monday in Ben Light Gymnasium.
The two-hour ceremony opened with faculty, alumni and student speakers proceeding into the gym, accompanied by Ludwig Maurer’s “Maestoso alla Marcia,” the traditional processional arrangement.
Shortly after the procession, Ithaca Brass, the college’s resident brass quintet, and the faculty vocal ensemble performed the college’s official anthem, “Ithaca Forever.” Marc Webster, assistant professor for music performance and performance studies, sang an operatic rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Rochon presided over the service, which differed slightly from last year’s Convocation. This ceremony was formatted to include a variety of student and faculty speakers presenting research projects. The students’ individual journeys also served as the event’s central theme.
After a brief introduction from Marisa Kelly, the college’s newly selected provost and vice president of academic affairs, Jennifer Muller, assistant professor for the department of anthropology, challenged the new class to pursue their dreams, even if they seem unrealistic.
“Part of the intellectual challenge and reward is putting all of the pieces together,” she said. “That’s how you find out who you are as an individual.”
Joyti Jiandani ’11 opened the academic presentations by bringing attention to diversity on campus. Jiandani said students should be mindful of the importance of interactions on a predominately white campus. She then put a twist on one of the college’s mottos.
“A commitment to excellence does mean a commitment to academic achievement, but it also means a commitment to self-exploration,” she said. “What better way to find out about ourselves than through interactions with others?”
Jack Powers, assistant professor for the department of television and radio, touched on the faculty’s activities outside of the classroom by explaining his work on the popular show “Modern Family.”
“Students don’t know that teaching is only part of our job,” he said. “Academic scholarship is the notion of adding to the world’s knowledge.”
Wrapping up the presentations, Kelly introduced five staff members who received the college’s annual faculty excellence awards.
This year’s winners were Marina Caillaud, associate professor for the department of biology; Mead Loop, associate professor for the department of journalism; Jeffery Meyer, assistant professor for the department of music performance; Gladys Varona-Lacey, professor for the department of modern languages and literatures; and Fred Wilcox, associate professor for the department of writing.
Lawrence Alleva ’71, vice chair for the board of trustees and this year’s salutation speaker, provided the freshmen with a piece of advice he said he found useful as a student.
“This is your home for the next four years,” he said. “Get to know the people on campus and forge bonds with them. Seek knowledge and explore opportunities inside and outside the college.”
Alleva then introduced senior Scott Nachlis, president of the Student Government Association, who said students should take any opportunities they are presented with because they never know where they could end up.
“College is all about taking that first step,” he said. “Who knows? Maybe one of you will be standing in my position giving this speech to anxious freshmen in four years.”
Before introducing Rochon, Kelly directed the audience’s attention to a video on the projector screen. The film opened with panoramas of the wonders of the world followed by a narration by actor Sean Connery.
The video was a visual narration of Constantine P. Cavafy’s 1911 poem, “Ithaca.”
Kelly gave the closing remarks and invited everyone to a picnic in the sunny academic quad immediately following its conclusion.
Outlining the main theme of this year’s Convocation, Rochon said the end of the road isn’t what matters most in someone’s career, but rather the experiences along the way.
“Greatness lies in the journey itself,” he said. “Not the destination.”