Faculty and student-athletes lined the approach to the Athletics and Events Center as well as the entrance hallway to welcome the incoming Class of 2021 with enthusiastic clapping and cheering for the 2017 Convocation ceremony. The Fall 2017 event was the first for President Shirley M. Collado to address students at Ithaca College.
The atmosphere was filled with enthusiasm and excitement in contrast to the typically more reserved ceremony in the past — a change that intended to create a more school-spirited environment, Dave Prunty, executive director of auxiliary services, said during the All-College Gathering on Aug. 24.
After the opening of the convocation ceremony with an African drumming performance, Linda Petrosino, provost and vice president of education affairs, spoke about Hurricane Harvey, which is currently a Category 4 storm devastating thousand of families in Texas with record flooding. She sent her prayers to those affected and she reminded students of services available on-campus to cope with any difficulties they may be having due to the storm.
Subsequently, Thomas Grape ’80, chair of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees, spoke about his experiences at the college as a student in comparison to now. He said that despite volunteering at the college for many years and being on the board of trustees since 2012, this convocation ceremony stands out.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a convocation with so much energy and so many people from so many parts of the college,” Grape said.
Collado’s speech focused on community-building and celebrating both the incoming class of freshmen and her own journey at the college.
“I am new here, just like you students,” Collado said. “You will forever be my first class.”
Collado asked the audience to take a pause to and acknowledge the current tensions in the country concerning bigotry and other forms of hatred. She encouraged everyone to be vulnerable by engaging in meaningful conversations in order to work upon these issues.
“We must find ways to build community, even when conversations are difficult and uncomfortable,” Collado said. “But above all, be respectful to yourself and everyone in this community.”
She also spoke about her upbringing in Brooklyn with parents who emigrated from the Dominican Republic. She said that without her scholarship to Vanderbilt University, she would not have had the opportunity to attend college and that the mentorship she received while in at college was a key to her success. She emphasized how important it is to seek out mentorship at college, and she herself offered her assistance to students.
Tom Swensen, chair and professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, cited a study published in The Atlantic about dependency on technology and its correlation with anxiety. His advice to the incoming freshmen was to be more active, rather than spending time on their phones, and engage in random acts of kindness.
“Put your phone away,” Swensen said. “Get out of the trees and see the forest.”
He also said that it is important for the incoming students to study what interests them during this anxious and uncertain period of their lives.
Junior Carlie McClinsey, president of Student Governance Council, also gave advice to the incoming freshmen, including that it is important to be brave, do what you love, surround yourself with impressive people and be an indispensable person.
“Find what you love, and stay involved,” McClinsey said. “It’s the best way to be a Bomber.”
Students and faculty said the convocation was uplifting and exciting.
Freshman Huilan Xu said the environment of the convocation felt very welcoming.
“All the professors clapping and everything made me feel like I belong,” Xu said.
The environment was very positive, sophomore rower Danny Decker said. Decker, one of the athletes cheering on the incoming students at the entry, said he was also very impressed with Collado’s resume and speech.
“It was really fun hyping people up,” Decker said. “She [Collado] seems very smart, and I am excited for Ithaca College’s future.”
Tanya Saunders, assistant provost in the Department of International Programs and Extended Studies, said she feels Collado genuinely cares about the staff and students, which makes the college feel more like a community.
“She projects that she cares about us as human beings,” Saunders said. “It feels like a community again.”
Similarly, Carlos Figueroa, assistant professor in the Department of Politics, said he is impressed that Collado is very open and aware.
Figueroa said the speech felt authentic. He said he feels that Collado has already begun to improve upon the disconnect between the faculty and the administration, which many faculty members felt existed under the previous president, Tom Rochon.
“You can feel the difference,” Figueroa said.