From the time the Class of 2021 received their acceptance letters seven months ago, they have been on a rollercoaster racing at ever increasing speeds towards this day: Move-In Day.
Excited. Anxious. Ready.
It’s these mix of emotions that Student Orientation Coordinator Jessica Hubert asked students to reflect on and share during the first few minutes of her Convocation speech.
“I want you to take a few seconds and introduce yourself to at least one person around you,” Hubert said. “Tell them your name in case they forgot, where you’re from, and how you’re feeling at this moment. And please don’t say hot. I challenge you to engage with the person and actively listen to them because chances are, they have similar feelings as you.”
She then shared the many opportunities students would have to make friends, get involved on campus, and get to know their new Gettysburg “family,” despite the nerves they may be feeling at that moment.
The reason why was simple. When you get to know the people around you—engage with them through shared interests, actively listen to them, and learn more about them than their name and major—the opportunities to build a supportive community, capable of fearless and respectful debate, are endless.
It was a sentiment echoed throughout Convocation as the 729 first-year students and 10 transfer students were welcomed to the Gettysburg College community.
English Prof. McKinley Melton shared his belief that the foundation of this type of a community can be rooted in one simple word: why.
“For most toddlers, the popularity of ‘why’ is second only to the sharp and well-placed ‘no!’ Our fondness for the word ‘no!’ is about establishing boundaries and discovering the power of our voice to give, deny, or withdraw consent,” Melton said. “Our ‘whys,’ however, signal our openness to the world and the desire to know more about the wonders contained within it.”
He also expressed his hope that by asking why, our new students will be better equipped to understand themselves and each other.
“Let ‘why’ lead you to more thoughtful conversations, as you probe your peers and your professors, challenging one another to better articulate why you believe what you do,” Melton said. “Ask one another about the perspectives that guide your interactions, and be prepared to listen to the response.”
The ability to engage each other in ideas, debates, and differences—and the responsibilities that come with that privilege—is one that President Janet Morgan Riggs ’77 reflected on as well.
“You are all living together in a community that allows you the opportunity to really get to know one another, to ask questions, to debate ideas, to embrace each other’s differences, to challenge each other, and to support each other,” said President Janet Morgan Riggs ’77. “There is a strong expectation that goes with that freedom to express one’s opinions—and that is that you will treat those who are swimming in the Gettysburg water with you with dignity.”
At the end of Convocation, the incoming students processed through Pennsylvania Hall, to meet their families on the Alumni House lawn and say their farewells. And while it was surely a difficult moment for many of our students—or, as Hubert put it in her remarks, “feeling the feels of moving in”—it was one that they did not face alone.
It was also a moment that would not last for long, as students had their first meal with their class in Servo, enjoyed an evening social with Rita’s Italian Ice, and looked forward to a whole host of Orientation week activities—including Thursday’s First-Year Walk, Friday’s GIV Day, Saturday’s Experience Gettysburg, and Sunday’s Field Day.
Of course, there is additional programming provided by the Campus Activities Board throughout the week, including a glow party on Thursday night and a viewing of Anchorman—followed by their Class of 2021’s first Midnight Madness—on Saturday.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Kasey Varner '14, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6806
Posted: Wed, 23 Aug 2017
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