St. Andrews University welcomed the class of 2017, transfer students and their families during its recent 2013 Opening Convocation.
“As I mentioned to the students, the procession from the library terrace across the lake to this gathering of the academic community is the symbolic first step of their journey to a college education,” said SAU President Paul Baldasare. “This step will be followed by up to four years of hard academic work and will end at Commencement, when they process for the last time as a class back across the lake to the library terrace to receive their diplomas. Opening Convocation and Commencement are the symbolic bookends to your college education.”
The ceremony serves as the formal opening of the academic year and includes the new students signing the community honor code and several formal welcomes from representatives of the University.
“I am thrilled and excited to see so many new faces,” said Assistant Dean of Students for Student Engagement Elizabeth Hernandez. “You are here to learn about yourself and others. Be passionate, be you, prepare to make a living and a life. Be a contributing member of this community. I challenge you to do something different, grow, learn, and to discover who you are and why you are here.”
According to Hernandez, the students represent 26 different states and U.S. territories as well as more than 16 different countries.
“We are going to do all that we can, as an educational institution committed to teaching and mentoring students, to help you develop the knowledge, the skills and the experiences you need in order to make a living when you graduate,” Baldasare agreed. “But, equally important, we are also committed to helping you gain a better understanding of yourself, your aspirations, passions and greatest joys so you can make a meaningful, coherent life for yourself in the increasingly fragmented world that you’ll be entering as young adults.”
The young adults were presented with some advice from a student who sat where they are just a few years ago, Student Government Association President Jennifer George.
“First and foremost, go to class,” she said. “Your ultimate goal is to get an education and a degree. You may not realize that class is important, but I guarantee you it’s worth it. Your professors will be more likely to help you, and you’ll without a doubt learn something that could help you on a test. It may be hard to get yourself out of bed for that 8 AM Chemistry class, and it may take 3 cups of coffee to stay awake for the whole thing, but in the long run, it’ll be worth it.”
While the practical advice resonated with the students, faculty, staff and families alike, George also shared a key piece of sentimental advice.
“Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give you is to cherish your time here at St. Andrews,” she said. “Make this place your home. Enjoy every moment you’re here. Enjoy your walk to class across the bridge and enjoy those little conversations you’ll have with people on that walk. Enjoy living in a dorm room surrounded by your close friends, but most of all, enjoy St. Andrews. Time flies while you’re here so take advantage of every second you have because these will be the best four years of your life. Life is short, but college is shorter.”
Dr. Neal Bushoven, distinguished professor of politics and director of the general honors program, likewise challenged the students to make the most of their time at St. Andrews.
“Will we be merely at college having a good time?” he asked. “Or will we be in college preparing ourselves for the job market? Or will we be in college both preparing ourselves to make a living and to make an enriching life? With each other’s help, I hope that you, and also I, will choose well for it will make all the difference. In college or at college?”
Bushoven further challenged the students to create an interesting narrative through their lives.
“Humans, as my minister recently reminded us, are story tellers,” he shared. “Perhaps the most creative and challenging story we will ever design and assert is our own personal story that we will project, perform, and improvise into our future with our deeds and words. Life College helps and challenges us to create a life story and a character in that story that will lead us to perform a life worth living.”