Media Department: Stephanie Kloss
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BURLINGTON, Vt. — The largest entering class of Champlain College—662 students—were advised to "make every moment count" while in college, to make personal connections, do good versus doing well, and savior and save the special moments—including taking a selfie at Convocation—that they will undoubtedly remember their whole life.
Friday afternoon, following a morning move-in to residential halls, a family-style BBQ and a semi-rainy welcome to families and members of the Class of 2018 from President Donald J. Laackman, the official Champlain College Convocation was convened behind Perry Hall Welcome Center.
The academic welcome at the 137th Convocation included Provost and Chief Academic Officer Laurie Quinn; Assistant Professor Nancy Kerr, the 2014 Edward Phelps Lyman Professorship recipient for great teaching; Mary Alice McKenzie, Champlain's 2014 Distinguished Citizen honoree; and student welcome from Dylan Cullen ‘17, president of the Student Government Association.
The Convocation begins with a procession of Champlain's 100-plus faculty and staff in full academic regalia led by the St. Andrew's Pipe Band of Vermont.
Provost Quinn welcomed the Class of 2018, reflecting on the overall excitement of the students' arrival on campus. "I know this has been a whirlwind of a day for you. It has also been a day in your life that I hope you will never forget. You will only ever have one first day of college—savor it. And know that even if your parents have already called or texted you—they will be okay," Quinn joked. "I am confident that you will make them proud, and show them you are ready for all the opportunities and adventures Champlain will provide you."
SGA President Dylan Cullen of Tewksbury, Mass., who just a year ago was sitting at Convocation, advised his peers to explore who they are, question everything, be fiercely kind to others, and focus on doing good, versus doing well. "I challenge you to take that independence, and to take your passion, and DO something with it. Kill apathy. Challenge injustice. Take on matters that matter to you. And be your most genuine self, because that's the only person worth being."
Professor Kerr, the most recent recipient of the Edward Phelps Lyman Professorship took students on a trip back to when she was in college, and even brought out a few props to illustrate how much college life has changed. Holding up a typewriter, bottle of White Out, a yellow legal pad and pencil, and a landline phone with a cord, she illustrated how much technology has changed. Kerr encouraged students to take advantage of the technology advances like smartphones, tablets and social media, but to not forget to put them down and experience life firsthand.
Dr. Michael Kelly introduced President Laackman to the class, noting the students and the new president had a number of things in common. "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," said Kelly. "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."
President Laackman then presented the 53rd annual Distinguished Citizen award to Mary Alice McKenzie, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington. During her professional career, McKenzie has held leadership positions in both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in Vermont. She was president and CEO of McKenzie of Vermont from 1985 through 2000.
McKenzie highlighted three things she learned by taking the executive director position at the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington, which is in the heart of Vermont's most diverse neighborhoods in Vermont. She learned that life really is not fair, that one person can make a difference, and that making a difference happens one child at a time.
With hard work and dedication, she noted, The Boys & Girls Club has had its first college graduates, one an accounting graduate from Champlain, five are currently in college and doing well, seven are going to be first-year students this year, and 10 are on track to attend college next fall. "We are working with 80 children and youth we expect to be ready for college when their time comes," reported McKenzie.
"Recently, I interviewed many Club kids of all ages about what they were thinking about college. One of the questions I asked was who do you know who has been to college? The number one answer by a margin of 10 to 1 was: My Big Buddy." A Big Buddy is a college student mentor, many from Champlain College, that act as a positive representation of college for a child.
"Class of 2018 - Congratulations on being here. We are all looking forward to getting to know you and making your journey here as challenging and as fun as possible," said Quinn during the ceremony's closing remarks. "You have all of our best wishes as you begin this new phase of your life."
Registrar Becky Peterson, Conference Center Director Linda Wheeler, and alumna Kayla Hedman '14 closed the ceremony and led the Class of 2018 in singing of the Alma Mater, written 50 years ago by James Beams of Richmond, Vt.
Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and 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 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit champlain.edu.