New Student Convocation

Mere months after sitting on athletic fields preparing to graduate high school, the Class of 2021 found itself in a similar seating arrangement on August 30, 2017 at New Student Convocation. However, this time instead of closing a chapter of their lives, they were welcomed to begin a new one.

From the procession of staff, administration, alumni, and student leaders, it was clear that this formal ceremony was meant to officially induct the Class of 2021 into the Stevens community. Following the singing of the national anthem, the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Christophe Pierre, welcomed the class and advised the students to take advantage of the copious amount of opportunities that Stevens has to offer, such as joining clubs, studying abroad, conducting research projects, trying internships, and pursuing a graduate degree.

After Provost Pierre spoke, President Nariman Farvardin gifted the class with information about Stevens’ history and alumni, including the fact that Edwin A. Stevens left a request in his will to found the Stevens Institute of Technology, and the fun fact that Stevens graduate Alfred Fielding, Class of 1939, co-invented bubble wrap. The President emphasized his belief that Stevens students positively impact the world and urges the students to “go forth boldly, as [they] carry the spirit of this university… the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Following the President, Mayor Dawn Zimmer took the stage to give her final address at a Stevens Convocation, as this is her last mayoral term. She thanked Stevens students for contributing to the Hoboken community through service, starting with the freshmen who participated in a volunteering activity during orientation. The mayor also stressed the importance of Stevens students integrating themselves into the Hoboken community and voicing their thoughts at city meetings. Overall, Mayor Zimmer hopes that this incoming class of Stevens students will uphold the tradition of helping the neighborhood, and she welcomes them to Hoboken.

Next, the class heard from two student leaders: Student Government President, Thomas Daly, and Chairwoman of the Stevens Honor Board, Olivia Schreiber. Thomas reflected on his last four years at Stevens and shared with the class that it is perfectly normal to make mistakes, because they help shape the individual, develop courage, and learn how to rebuild oneself after failure. Afterwards, Olivia explained the importance of giving credit where credit is due, as there was no honor system in place when botanists failed to pay homage to Gregor Johann Mendel’s work with pea plant hybridization for gene research. With Olivia leading, the class then reaffirmed its commitment to the Stevens Honor System by reciting the pledge.

Subsequently, the President of the Stevens Alumni Association, Victoria Velasco, presented the Class of 2021 with the class banner, which will be displayed at all class gatherings, including Commencement in 2021, as a representation of the class bond.

Stevens has previously hosted 146 Convocations, but this year it was changed to the New Student Convocation, thus eliminating all aspects of Convocation that did not center on freshmen. Prior to this year, Convocation included the presentation of awards to upperclassmen and faculty as well as honorary degrees, but the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, Sara Klein, noted that “Convocation needed a clear purpose, and that purpose should be to welcome and motivate our new students. In the past, Convocation had too many purposes, which made it confusing.” Thus, she decided to spearhead the changes to this year’s ceremony to enhance the freshman experience.

In addition to the removal of past awards, this year’s event also included a Keynote Speaker, Dr. Kelland Thomas, the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. Thomas interlaced the themes of this year’s summer reading book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, by reminding the Class of 2021 of its power over technological advancement, which must be ensured to benefit everyone. Dr. Kelland Thomas is confident that with a Stevens education, the Class of 2021 will be able to fulfill its responsibility “to ensure that technology leads us to a better life, a society of abundance, a more just world, and a more sustainable planet for all of us, to ensure that technology brings us closer together instead of dividing us”.

On the whole, this year’s New Student Convocation served to officially welcome the Class of 2021 to Stevens and provide freshmen with encouragement to succeed in all of their endeavors.