Saint Mary’s greets first-years with second annual Convocation ceremony
Katelyn Waldschmidt | Friday, August 18, 2023
Saint Mary’s will hold its second annual Convocation ceremony to welcome new students Sunday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Mona Bowe, executive director of the office of retention strategies, explained the purpose of the recently created ceremony.
“It is an opportunity for our new students to be welcomed into the community by returning students,” Bowe said. “It is held on Sunday because then all of our new students have been here for three or four days and a lot of our returning students are already on campus to start classes on Monday.”
She also discussed the reason the College began this tradition last year.
“There are a number of women’s colleges around the country that have similar ceremonies where your ‘upperclasswomen’ are welcoming the brand new students and we haven’t done that at Saint Mary’s before,” Bowe said. “We do it in small ways. So you might have the athletes do that, you might have the choir do that, you might have people within a department or a residence hall. But we didn’t have one place where it was college wide.”
Bowe said she believes Convocation is the perfect way to make new students feel welcome and to help them feel at home away from home.
“I think any of us can think back and put ourselves into what it was like to be at college for the first three days. It is overwhelming. It is a big change.
“It is the first time they’re leaving home for a long period of time. It’s uncertainty and excitement and new things and to have the returning students sit in the audience and cheer you in as your walking across the stage. I think it helps with a sense of belonging. It helps with a sense of welcoming them to our family,” she said.
Chris Dunlap, a chemistry professor, is the College Marshal this year.
“(I’m) the person who’s in charge of making sure faculty and students go where they’re supposed to when we’re dressed in cap and gown,” Dunlap said. “But because this is sort of a ceremony of the College, I got pulled in, so I helped plan last year and this year. I will be in charge of organizing the first-year students.”
During Convocation, all first-year and new transfer students walk across the stage, while returning students and faculty sitting in the audience cheer them on. Last year, during the first Convocation, Dunlap was also in charge of organizing the first-years and said that they weren’t too sure what was happening.
“I’m not entirely sure they know what’s coming. We give them their pins, they get some beads and then we say ‘Okay, off you go!’” Dunlap said.
Beyond new students, Dunlap also discussed why returning students should engage in Convocation.
“There is a couple things. They get to see one of their own win the St. Catherine’s medal. They get to see the faculty, who many of them have had, win these big awards,” Dunlap said. “And then it’s also important because it helps start to build that community between returning students and first-years.”
Bowe added that returning students should check in to receive their class pin.
“Each class receives a different pin. And then at one point, Dr. Conboy will ask the new students to get up and turn around and they will face a returning student. Then they will exchange pins and will pin that on you. So as a returning student, you are truly welcoming a new student by pinning them,” she said.
“So starting with the class of (2022), when they graduate, they will have four pins as long as they come to Convocation every year. They have a pin for every year and it will be one of the things they can wear on their gown for commencement.”
Along with cheering in new students, there is also a series of awards that are handed out. Dunlap explained “we are also using this to celebrate a couple faculty who are awarded the College’s highest awards.”
“The highest award in teaching is the Maria Pieta Award, and in service, is the Spes Unica Award,” he said. “We also give the St. Catherine’s Medal, which is an award to a student who exemplifies the best of Saint Mary’s, especially in the mission area.”
Despite these prestigious awards being handed out, Dunlap stressed that it isn’t a formal event.
“People think of a ceremony as formal, but we don’t even have a program. I think the president talks for a little bit and we have the faculty member who won the Maria Pieta Award talk. It’s Jennifer Juszkiewicz from the Writing Center. Her talk is going to be awesome,” Dunlap said.
He added that the ceremony is brief before students head off to Belle’s Bash to “have more fun before they have to do some real work.”
“If you’re a returning student, and you want to get a T-shirt at Belle’s Bash, you need to come to Convocation,” Bowe said. “Your ticket for a shirt will be your pin.”
The ceremony with be held in O’Laughlin Auditorium. All returning students are asked to wear white shirts and all first-years to wear blue.