Champlain President Laackman Orientation 2014 Addresses

President Laackman gives an address to the Class of 2018 and families

Introduction by Mike Kelly, Assistant Professor in the Core Division:

President Laackman comes to Champlain with a wide-swath of experiences that include over 20 years at the consulting firm - Accenture, public service on the Mayor of Chicago's Small Business Advisory Committee, and most recently the Presidency of Harold Washington College in Chicago.

Despite these numerous professional accolades and his authority as President, Don Laackman has some things in common with you, Champlain College Class of 2018. Like you, he will be living on campus for the first time, although he will not have to share a bathroom with strangers or wear flip flops in the shower. Like you, he has the full support of his family as he embarks on his new adventure at the College, although I would be surprised if his mother has texted him twice since this Convocation program started, as I suspect may be the case for some of you.

But the most important similarity between you and the man I am about to introduce is a shared hope for the promise of what Champlain College holds. Presumably, you were drawn to Champlain for the same reasons as our new President—namely to be a part of something special in the rapidly evolving world of higher education. Here at Champlain we are a place where the fundamental tenets of a higher education are unapologetically meshed with the practical urgency of career readiness—a combination that will position us all to do great things.

On behalf of the faculty, the staff and the Board of Trustees of Champlain College, I am pleased to introduce President Don Laackman.

President Don Laackman, New Student Welcome Remarks

It's wonderful to see you all here. Welcome Champlain College Class of 2018!

Like you, this is my first Orientation at Champlain College. Like you, I chose Champlain because of our Radically Pragmatic approach to education. Like you, I chose Champlain because we are re-writing the rules of higher education. Like you, I chose Champlain because our Three-Dimensional approach, our Upside-Down Curriculum and our Human Touch are not just buzzwords in our marketing materials—they are the essence of who we are as faculty, as staff, and as a college. And as you will learn, these words describe who you will become as graduates of Champlain College in 2018.

As you embark upon your college career, I have three things for you to consider:

Heart, Mind & Body.

First—the Heart—While at Champlain, I challenge you to build relationships with your peers, the professors in your classes, the staff in the residential halls and around campus, and members of the larger Burlington community. Your time at Champlain College will provide you the unique opportunity to build your professional network, to learn about and engage in your community and shape your personal identity. These relationships will enrich your time at Champlain College. In the first few weeks, this will be especially important.

For those of you who are introverted, building these relationships may seem daunting. I am asking you to stretch yourself and get to know new people. I promise you, the fear of rejection will be overwhelmed by the joy in making new acquaintances and friends.

For those of you who find it easy to make new friends, I ask you to take on an additional responsibility by reaching out to the introverts—the student sitting alone at dinner, the student in your residential hall who walks to class alone, and connect with them. The Champlain community values difference and fosters inclusion. By connecting with a diverse group of your peers, you will enrich your own lives and enrich our community. Let's start right now—new students—turn to your right and left and introduce yourself to two new people. . . . Fantastic. You have taken the first steps in building your new community.

I hope that you will continue reach out to one another in the interest of further developing the connections of the "Heart".

Next—the Mind—Your Champlain College experience will help you develop technology, information, scientific and quantitative literacy. Our faculty will help you develop competency in inquiry, analysis, integration, creativity, communication, and collaboration. Your education here will give you global and cultural understanding.

This education is rigorous and demanding—just like the working world you will enter less than four years from now. Continue to nurture your mind by doing the work in your classes; actively participating in class discussions; and engaging faculty and your fellow students in your educational journey.

You are no longer in high school—and for our transfer students, you are no longer at your old school. Welcome to Champlain College. Champlain's academic and extra-curricular community will enrich, inspire and yes, challenge you considerably. For every one academic credit hour that you take in a Champlain course each week, there is an expectation that you are spending two hours outside of the class reading assignments, writing papers or coding applications, creating projects and working on teams. Many of you will be taking a traditional load of 15 academic credits this semester, which equates to 45 hours of work, per week, in and out of the classroom. This is not high school. You will have to work to earn the grade you want. Champlain College is your new job.

Finally—the Body—As new college students, you will be faced with decisions on how you take care of yourself. 

  • Do you get enough sleep? 
  • Are you reserving time to work out or engage in activities? 
  • Are you getting outside? 
  • Are you getting to the dining hall enough? 
  • Are you spending too much time in the dining hall?

Every moment matters and the choices you make will influence your "Heart" and your "Mind." Please take time to consider this point carefully, because it is potentially the most important. Reflect and consider how your physical presence reflects your goals, honors your values and demonstrates how you want to represent yourself to the Champlain College community.

So far, I have challenged you to build relationships, to sharpen your mind, to take care of your body. Once you master heart, mind and body, you only need one thing to help you become an engaged citizen of the world:

A Passport.

We are committed to helping you learn more about this global village we all inhabit. So...when you return for your sophomore year next fall, if you have a 3.0 GPA or higher, I will pay for you to acquire a passport. Study abroad is the best and quickest way for most undergraduates to recognize the complexity of the world—to come to appreciate the validity and power of other narratives. We want you to go abroad—no, we expect you to go abroad—we've even set up sites in Montreal and Dublin for you to make it easy. One year from now: a 3.0 and a brand new passport, on me. For those of you who already have passports: great—we're happy you do!

Your professional program will prepare you for your chosen profession by building a highly marketable resume full of experiences and skills that gets you a job today. Champlain's Core curriculum is designed to prepare you to be a life-long learner so that you can adapt to the rapidly changing world around us, and so that you can play a meaningful role as a global citizen and intellectual leader in the 21st century. International studies will give you an appreciation for diverse cultures and mindsets. And our LEAD program will provide you with a head start on managing your money, your career and your life. You will be prepared because you will receive the most complete education available.

Last fall, The Atlantic magazine named Champlain College, "The Ideal College"—and I couldn't agree more. Throughout my own orientation to the college, I've been talking to CEOs, HR managers and Executive Directors of local firms. I am so impressed by what they tell me about the Champlain College alumni working in their companies. Employers are telling me that our graduates show up ready to work. Our graduates bring a great deal of competence and humility to their jobs. Our graduates ask good questions and make immediate contributions to their teams. And they tell me that these qualities make Champlain graduates stand out from graduates at other schools. This is what a Champlain College degree will provide for you. I have no doubt that Champlain will prepare you to be a contributing global citizen upon graduation; however, it's up to you to take full advantage of what this college has to offer.

I promise that if you work hard here, you will enter the world of work confident, competent, and contributing to the success of the firms you join—or the companies you start as entrepreneurs.

So, to wrap up: Heart, Mind, Body: three things to think about as you start your new job as a student at Champlain College. Keep these in mind and four years from now you will ready for careers, and ready for life, like the long line of Champlain graduates who have come before you.

And one final thing—and you have to promise to not tell this to the upperclassmen ahead of you—as my first class at Champlain College, the Class of 2018 will always have a special place in my heart. We joined Champlain College together. I look forward to our journey together over the next four years.

To Parents and family members: I hope that you will make it back to campus for our Family Weekend on September 27 through the 29th. I hope you also now consider yourselves part of the Champlain Family. We've planned a great weekend for you to spend time with your student; meet our faculty and staff and allow them to share their passion and knowledge; explore downtown Burlington and the waterfront; and enjoy entertainment from some of Champlain's best and brightest. We hope to see you there.

All of us at the College are very, very happy that you have joined our community. It is, you will discover, a wonderful place. Good luck to you. I hope to see you often around campus.

And now... I have one more duty to perform. It is my duty to bring this portion of the day to a close by asking you to bid farewell to your parents. To you parents, family and friends I would simply say that your student is ready. You know that far better than we do. Now is the time to let them prove it.


Don Laackman, Address to Parents

So what to expect from your student over the next 15 weeks or so? Well, we can actually predict this quite well.

It turns out there is a predictable pattern of stages that first year students go though. The actual cycle is referred to as the "W-Curve". While not all students move through this cycle at the same pace or rate, we do know that most if not all go through this cycle.

The W describes the five inflection points your student will live through in the coming months.

The initial stage is called the HONEYMOON PHASE.

This is a time when students are filled with exhilaration and excitement upon arriving on campus. This feeling generally lasts about 1-3 weeks. They're making new friends and gaining new experiences. Without anyone telling them what to do, they suddenly have a new-found sense of freedom. They are happy in this stage and will report to you that everything is basically great!

The second stage is referred to as the - EMOTIONAL LETDOWN.

This stage happens around the 3rd to 6th week of being at college. The realities of college life set in, while challenges in classes, roommate issues, and finding ways to become more engaged on campus start to diminish the initial excitement. Your student will be ok, but he or she may be signaling some discomfort and will definitely have less enthusiasm than the honeymoon stage. Mid-terms will be approaching and stress will set in.

Third stage is the INITIAL ADJUSTMENT stage.

This usually occurs after mid-terms (mid-October), when new routines are in place, and students begin to identify their self-created "comfort zone." Examples include:

  • Finding good places to study
  • Understanding academic expectations
  • Knowing how to use the shuttle service
  • Beginning to participate in campus activities 
  • Finding the late night pizza service
  • Establishing a common group of friends
  • Gaining confidence and developing self-assurance

The fourth stage can be difficult for both the student AND the family. It is called the MENTAL ISOLATION. (November/December)

Students begin second-guessing themselves and their college decisions. They feel that maybe things just aren't so great after all. Students may complain about a professor, they may not feel that they have good friends or they have conflict with roommates. Students begin making college life comparisons to home life. Is Champlain really for them? Many students question their major or career choice during this time. Oftentimes students believe that they are alone in their feelings.

As a parent, you can be helpful by listening carefully and providing encouragement.

And the fifth stage is the ACCEPTANCE AND INTEGRATION stage. (January/February)

This stage becomes evident after the winter break, so think January or February. Once students return from winter break, they feel a stronger connection to campus. They begin to have less dependence on parents and less connection to former peers. This is the stage when your student begins to consider Champlain College "home".

So your child will get there. And you will get there. And we are here to help.

The best advice I can give you is to empower your child to solve his or her own problems. You have invested almost two decades of your love, energy, and time to get them to this point. Leaving them now is one of the hardest but most important things you will do as a parent. In a lifetime of selfless parental acts, today is near the top.

And so when your child calls, texts, emails, Tweets, Facebooks, Google hangouts, Skypes or FaceTimes and tells you they have a problem, you should say to them, ‘That's interesting. What are you going to do about it?"

Thank you for the gift you have given your children, and the gift you have given Champlain College. Have a wonderful day. 


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 over 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 379 Colleges: 2015 Edition. Champlain was named a "Top-Up-and-Coming School" by U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges and is ranked in the top tier of 2014 Regional Colleges in the North. For more information, visit www.champlain.edu.