President’s Convocation Officially Opens 193rd Academic Year at Trinity College

Joanne Berger-Sweeney Urges Class of 2020 to Take Advantage of Opportunities

Hartford, Connecticut, September 2, 2016 – The President’s Convocation on Thursday, September 1, marked the official start of Trinity College’s 193rd academic year, which was declared under way by Timothy J. Creswell, dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs. To honor the occasion and to welcome first-year students, President Joanne Berger-Sweeney led a traditional lemonade toast to the College and to the Class of 2020.

​Angel B. Pérez, vice president for enrollment and student success
During his presentation of the Class of 2020, Angel B. Pérez, vice president for enrollment and student success, called the students a class of many firsts and superlatives: “You are the class with the highest number of international students in our history,” Perez told them. “This class has the highest number of students who are first in their family to go to college. You are the most geographically diverse class in our history. And for the first time in our history, there are more women than men represented.”

Pérez continued, “Today we welcome 575 new first-year students, 14 transfer students, 16 IDP students, and six exchange students.” Members of the Class of 2020 come to Trinity with a wide range of achievements and accolades. Among the class is the captain of the Azerbaijan National Swim Team, the first female firefighter in her town, a student who has already interned with the CIA, and, Pérez said, “the one that made us smile the most: the student who was voted the ‘supreme happiness leader’ of the Happiness Club in high school.”

Berger-Sweeney then presented her address to the first-year students, and talked about what Trinity envisions for them as they join the campus community. “As new students, we want you to be curious; ask questions, push back on what you are told, explore something new. You are here to expand your mind,” she said. “We ask that you engage as citizens in this community of scholars and also as citizens of this nation and the world grappling with complex social and political issues. We expect you to step outside of your comfort zone and to embrace a diversity of thinking and learning. We challenge you to gain a knowledge of people from places, cultures, and systems of belief different from your own.”

Joanne Berger-Sweeney, President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience.​
Berger-Sweeney praised the benefits of embracing diversity, and pointed to the example of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, which won gold in this summer’s Olympics and was notable for being “the most racially and ethnically diverse team that the U.S. has ever brought to the Olympics,” she said. Berger-Sweeney also encouraged new students to learn about “Living the Vision,” this year’s theme of the Campaign for Community. “For students involved in the Campaign for Community, it means: Value the academic life and opportunities here. Show up in spaces that are new to you. Accept an invitation from someone with whom you think you have little in common. Reach out and get involved outside the classroom, on the athletic fields. Reach into Hartford and discover your interests. Learn to appreciate others’ passions and interests. Listen with empathy. And stand up and speak out where things are not as they should be.”

The president also spoke about Micah Onditi ’18, who developed a smartphone app that allows college students to buy and sell used textbooks. Onditi became involved with a Hartford nonprofit organization that empowers local entrepreneurs, and he sought out Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus, Ralph Morelli. “It did not matter that Micah was not taking a class from Professor Morelli – Micah simply asked if he could talk with him about an idea,” Berger-Sweeney said. “That’s the kind of personal attention you experience with faculty and staff on our campus.”

She concluded, “As you begin your Trinity career, I wish for all of you to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to you at Trinity. Each one of you was handpicked to be here. Respect one another and the faculty and staff members who support you. And respect this beautiful campus that we all call home. Be curious; be bold, independent thinkers; and don’t forget to have some fun!”

Although the ceremony was held indoors at the Koeppel Community Sports Center due to the threat of rain, it nevertheless concluded with a performance of the alma mater, “’Neath the Elms,” by The Trinity College Chapel Singers.

Written by Andrew J. Concatelli


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Photos by John Atashian. To view the Flickr set of photos from which the above slide show was generated, please click here​.