“This is a brilliantly hopeful time.”
After President Tom Rochon said these words, more than 1,000 freshmen got to their feet, high-fiving each other with the excitement of starting a new journey in their lives.
On Monday morning, the Ben Light Gymnasium was filled for Ithaca College’s Convocation ceremony.
The sound of brass instruments spread through the room as students stood for the alma mater, “Ithaca Forever,” performed by the Faculty Vocal Ensemble and the Ithaca Brass. Dawn Pierce, assistant professor of music performance, sang a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
After inducting the first-year students into the Ithaca College family, Marisa Kelly, provost and vice president of educational affairs, introduced academic presentations as examples for the first-year students to follow while pursuing their passions.
“Each academic year brings with it new opportunities for learning,” Kelly said. “I could describe those activities to you, but instead we’ve invited a few faculty and staff and students to talk with you about the exciting work in which they are engaged — the kind of work that we hope all of you will be pursuing in your own ways, given your own interests and learning objectives.”
The academic research was presented by six students under the direction of three faculty members across areas of science and communications.
Sophomore Crystal Kayiza, who remembers being in a similar position to the freshman in the room just one year ago, spoke about her involvement in Park Productions for her academic presentation. She attributed the cultivation of her passion to working with the studio and staff in the organization.
“In the Park Production studio, I found a place to shape my passion while making a difference in the world,” Kayiza said. “Find your place of inspiration inside and outside the classroom and together we will shape the future of communications.”
In another presentation, Carole Dennis, associate professor of occupational therapy, along with seniors Laura Maresciallo and Kathryn Martin, spoke about working with 5- to 10-month-old babies in their “Tots on Bots” program, which uses robots to assist babies with difficulties walking.
After the academic presentations, Kelly recognized five faculty for their excellence and contribution to the college.
The recipients included Changhee Chun, associate professor of cinema, photography and media arts; Jason Hamilton, associate professor of environmental studies and sciences; Eleanor Henderson, assistant professor of writing; Steve Peterson, professor of performance studies; and Stephen Sweet, associate professor of sociology.
Following the faculty presentation, Thomas Grape, ’80, chair of the Board of Trustees, reflected on his years at the college. Though freshmen may not realize it immediately, Grape said, the college journey will create lasting memories.
“You have very exciting years ahead of you,” Grape said. “I’m confident that you will excel here and make a real contribution to IC. Today marks the beginning of a relationship between you and Ithaca College that will last a lifetime.”
In addition to these experiences, senior Rob Flaherty, president of Student Government Association, reminded the Class of 2016 of the importance of taking advantage of their resources.
“By being in this room, we’re actually in a really elite club,” Flaherty said. “According to recent statistics, 7 percent of the world will get a college education. You’re going to graduate here with a piece of paper, but more importantly an opportunity to experience something that 93 percent of people in the world can only dream of.”
Rochon addressed first-year students with a challenge to wholeheartedly plunge into their college experience.
“You’re fortunate to be part of a residential, educational community full of amazing people doing amazing things,” Rochon said. “The best way to take advantage of this rich learning environment is to be intentional about it. Live with purpose. No moment spent on campus need be without meaning.”
This sense of urgency and possibility was ignited in freshman Nate Hileman, who said he is eager to pursue his interests as a cinema and photography major outside of the classroom.
“There’s a lot more to get involved in my major than I thought,” Hileman said. “I know there’s a lot of outlets and a lot of different areas of interests to get involved, so it gives that cross collaboration among subjects.”
For Hileman and the rest of the freshman class, the conclusion of Convocation not only marks the beginning of their college careers, but the opportunity to use their educational opportunities for something bigger than themselves.
To read Rochon’s full Convocation remarks, visit the Office of the President website.