Convocation Speech by Edward Phelps Lyman Professorship Recipient, Nancy Kerr

Professor Nancy Kerr shares "When I went to college..."

Professor Nancy Kerr, the 2014 Edward Phelps Lyman Professorship recipient for great teaching Convocation Speech August 2014

Good Afternoon Everyone!

I am going to ask you to do something for me right now. I want everyone to take out their phone, and if you could please stand up.

If you would be so kind as to take a picture of the crowd, or the podium area, or a selfie, or the person next to you and post it to your favorite posting place, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.

I'm going to do the same. 

OK—now if you will all sit down and put your phones away, that would be great. 

You have all appeared at Champlain with your iPhones, Androids, tablets, laptops, and computers. 

But let me contrast your experience to when I went to college...oh, some 30 years ago...

I showed up at college with my TYPEWRITER!

When I wrote a paper I didn't sit at a keyboard, writing, editing, spell checking—NO—to write a paper I first started with this: A LEGAL PAD AND PENCIL or PEN.

And I wrote LONGHAND! Can you believe it? LONG HAND on this tablet. And once I had done all my research, and my writing, I then went back to my LEGAL PAD and organized my paper by cutting it into strips and putting the strips together so that they made sense. And I TAPED them together, so that it looked something like this!! (holds up paper taped together)

Then I would sit at my typewriter and start typing. Now if you know anything about a typewriter, it doesn't spell check, it doesn't correct your grammar, nor does it tell you if you have too many spaces or too few.

Instead you get to correct your paper yourself using WHITE OUT! For each and every mistake, you wipe this on the mistake and then wait for it to dry and retype your correct letter in the same space. A bit time consuming and frustrating, especially if you make as many mistakes as I do when you type.

SO THIS IS PRETTY SHOCKING! Today, you sit at the computer, you compose your words, you move text around and you tell the computer to fix all of your spelling errors. And it happens almost instantaneously! No waiting for white out to dry on your paper!

And not only did I have to type my papers on a typewriter, but - and you will find this shocking, I only talked to my parents ONCE A WEEK on this telephone (holds up the clunky old telephone), tethered to the wall by a phone cord. I didn't text, FaceTime, or Skype. And even more shocking - we had to talk before 8 a.m. or after 11 p.m. because the RATES were cheaper then. My guess is you text, call and chat whenever you feel like it!

Things have changed! And here is the deal - It is both a luxury and a burden to be able to have 24/7 connection to your devices and your friends and family.

Here is what I want you to consider: I encourage you to use your devices to remember the highlights of your college career. Take those pictures of your events, hikes, skiing and snowboarding. But set those devices down and join activities and reach out and meet people face-to-face. Because college life is all about connections—personal connections—that will sustain you for the next four years and most likely for a lifetime beyond Champlain College.

AND if you feel so inclined you can follow me on Twitter at @naykerr, or check out your picture as I see you from the podium on my Facebook page.

And for now: "HASHTAG" #CCO14 (Champlain College Orientation 2014) and "HASHTAG" #THANK YOU!


Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Quebec and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and more than 60 online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 381 Colleges: 2017 Edition. Champlain College is featured in the "Fiske Guide to Colleges" for 2017 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Champlain was named one of the “Most Innovative Schools” in the North by the U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 “America’s Best Colleges and #91 in the overall list of “Best Regional Universities in the North. For more information, visit www.champlain.edu.