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Convocation Address 2017

President Anthony S. Caprio 

August 25, 2017
Alumni Healthful Living Center

Good afternoon, everyone. I welcome each and every one of you to this Convocation which marks the opening of Academic Year 2017-18. Welcome all first-year and transfer students, as well as our international students who have come from around the world to earn a degree or to study with us for a semester or for a year. Welcome too members of the sophomore class who will be inducted into Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society. Welcome all parents and family members of our students. And welcome distinguished faculty and staff of the University.

New students and parents, many of you have already experienced the talents and the commitment of our Western New England University faculty and staff—in your Summer Orientation and Registration visits, during Open House days, or in other equally informative encounters. Newcomers learn quickly that a defining attribute and characteristic of this University is that its 240 fulltime faculty, its cadre of adjunct faculty, and its 600 fulltime staff in all departments from Student Affairs to Housekeeping and Grounds are committed to serving students and to assuring the continuous quality improvement of our University. This University propelled itself into its first century, transformed itself many times, and will shine brightly and proudly as it celebrates its 100th anniversary in less than two years.

Academic convocations are held to convene students and faculty at the beginning of the academic year— to bring them together to start a new year of learning and of intellectual growth. It is our practice to honor and to recognize academic excellence. It is our tradition to inculcate a spirit of achievement. It is our tradition to be role models for each other and to help each other see to what heights we can aspire. On that note I congratulate our Alpha Lambda Delta initiates. We proudly recognize you seated before all of us and particularly before our new students here today. I hope each of our new students will be inspired to achieve academic fulfillment as you have. At Western New England University, scholarship, study, intellectual growth, and academic rigor are first and foremost our most valued undertakings.

Now let me tell you a little about our new students. Students, you were selected for admission from an applicant pool of 7,033 students, the largest in the history of the University! You follow in the footsteps of thousands of graduates of the University who attribute their success in large measure to Western New England University. Just think of it. You follow 46,355 other men and women who have studied, grown, and matured at this institution. You are now part of our evolving history, and it is my hope that you will be inspired by all that has come before you and that you will recognize how fortunate you are – all of us are – to be in this place at this time.

You number about 890—first-year and transfer students. You have come from 425 public and private high schools with graduating classes ranging from about 25 to well over 1,000 students.

You hail from far and near. You will meet each other, from Stratford, Connecticut to Shanghai, China; from Longmeadow, Massachusetts to Lisse, Netherlands; from Hopewell Junction, New York, to Hyderabad, India; from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Rancho Cucamonga, California; from Paris, France to Point Pleasant, New Jersey; from Nairobi, Kenya, to North Providence, Rhode Island; from Saint Paul, Minnesota to our own Springfield, Massachusetts. Forty-nine percent (49%) of you are from Massachusetts, 25% from Connecticut, and 11% from New York. You reside in 17 states or are from 12 foreign countries. This includes ten (10) of you who are here from France, England, and the Netherlands as part of our well-established exchange programs.

Our transfer students have attended 40 different colleges in 8 states—from Hofstra, Bryant, Roger Williams, and Boston University, as well as URI, UMass, UNH, and other fine institutions. Too bad for them but good for us, and for you that you have chosen to study here. Welcome! Fifty-six (56) of our transfer students have come from a community college, including nearby Springfield Technical, Holyoke, and Asnuntuck Community Colleges.

Twenty-six percent (26%) of our new students list themselves as African American, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian, or multiracial; or are international students. This is a campus, as you will quickly learn, that welcomes, supports, and embraces all students regardless of differences in appearance, manner, ideas, culture, race, ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, or personal belief.

You have expressed interest in 65 separate majors or concentrations. One hundred and fifty seven (157) of you will be focusing your studies in the Physical or Biological Sciences. Sixty-one (61) of you have expressed interest in our Criminal Justice program and thirty (30) of you in our Psychology Program. Two hundred and eleven (211) of you are beginning your studies in Engineering, with sixty-seven (67) having expressed an interest in Mechanical Engineering specifically. Fifty-eight (58) of you will be joining us as an Accounting or Finance major and fifty-eight (58) in our Sport Management Program. Twelve (12) of you will pursue your degree in Communications, while sixty (60) of you have been conditionally admitted into one of our five-year joint bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in Business or Engineering. Eighty-seven (87) of you have expressed an interest in our 3+3 Law Program through which you seek admission and enter into Western New England University School of Law upon completion of your junior year at the University. One hundred and fifty-four (154) of you are not sure about a major. But not to worry. We will help you explore and choose.

Your academic credentials are impressive. Your average SAT scores are significantly above the national average. Your average high school GPA is a 3.4. There are two hundred and forty-eight (248) of you, a significant increase over previous years, who as freshmen have completed college courses while still in high school or have college credits through Advancement Placement (AP) courses. Forty-four (44) of you will be matriculating as second semester freshmen, twelve (12) freshmen in the audience are actually matriculating with enough credits to be classified as sophomores and one (1) of you is just six credits shy of having enough credits to be classified as a junior. Gosh, for this group graduation seems just around the corner!

Many students have received academic honors or personal accolades. For example, one hundred and forty-seven (147) of you were members of the National Honor Society—once again, a record-breaking number. Many have been in other honor societies related to many academic areas including math, art, and foreign languages. Many of you were awarded scholarships from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; I am glad you recognized the value of a Western New England University education and chose to pursue your education at this private university rather than using the scholarship at a Massachusetts public institution.

You bring diverse experiences to Western New England University:

  • You have expressed a wide variety of interests. On your application for admission, one hundred and ninety-four (194) of you said you would like to join a community service club; one hundred and fifty (150) of you indicated you would like to study abroad; thirty-one (31) are interested in joining the dance team and twelve (12) of you would like to be a part of our bowling club. I hope you will all chose to become involved and join a club or organization while studying here.
  • Two hundred and forty (240) students served as captains of athletic teams—another record-breaking number. Last year there were 148. Also among us we have at least three (3) black belts in the martial arts, an equestrian grand champion, a member of a professional rock climbing team, a moto-cross racer, a student who was named one of Long Island’s top 100 football players, a former member of the Junior PGA, and one brave student who participated in an actual NASCAR race. We have an outstanding Division III athletic program and many opportunities for all students, not solely athletes, to engage in sport and recreation.
  • One of you is a Celtic bagpiper, and another has played the banjo for over ten years. It will be interesting to see what kind of music will be created if these two collaborate while here. We have a student who sang in the New England Music Festival three years in a row; one of you identifies as a music producer and street performer, and another of you has had artwork displayed at the Boston Museum of Fine Art.
  • We welcome students this year who have given service to the United States of America, and for this we thank you. Two (2) are veterans of the United States Army, one (1) of the United States Navy, one student who currently serves on the United States Army National Guard and another who is an active United States Marine Reserve. Two (2) of you are Civil Patrol Officers and another two (2) of you have served as Deputy Commanders in the Junior ROTC Program.
  • Volunteerism and the desire to help others is another theme in this class, with the majority of you having volunteered generously in so many different ways—more ways than I can enumerate now. And these include service as dog trainer for the “America’s VetDogs” program, an organization whose mission is to help those who have served our country live with dignity and independence; being volunteer firefighters; working with the Special Olympics, and just so many outstanding efforts to help others. You will have many opportunities here to volunteer with your classmates.
  • You may be surprised that there are many business entrepreneurs among you. We have a student who started his own snow removal company called the “Blizzard Brothers,” a student who started her own pet sitting business known as “Creature Care,” a student who created a virtual company called “Sebby’s Sports Store,” a student who received a national award for her company, “Boothes Sweet Tooth,” and another student who started the company “Peter’s Porkers and Beef Butchering Company,” all organic.

  • Some of you have already studied or traveled abroad. You have already traveled to or attended school in Nigeria, Canada, France, Great Britain, Montenegro, Pakistan, Honduras, Portugal, and several other countries. One of you completed a culinary internship in Ecuador, and another of you danced professionally in Germany. Each year we provide an ever-increasing number of international opportunities with more and more students going abroad. This January our newly revamped London Semester Abroad Program, led by one of our own faculty members, will bring twenty-five (25) second-year students to Regents University in London. So you see, your arrival here may be just the first leg of a journey and of great adventure here and abroad.

You are indeed an accomplished, diversified, diverse, and interesting group!

For some, you are carrying on a family tradition. Thirty-nine (39) of you have a parent who graduated from Western New England. Eleven (11) have a sibling who graduated from here, six (6) have a grandparent who is an alumnus and fifty-eight (58) of you have an aunt, uncle, or cousin who earned their degree from our institution. These numbers are greater each year. So, as I welcome our new students to Western New England University, I also welcome back our alumni parents, grandparents, siblings, and other family members who have wisely guided our new students to the University and who have shown in a very concrete way the extent to which they value the education they received at Western New England by having you follow in their footsteps.

Students, much has been given to you and you will receive more, but from you much is expected. You must seize the opportunity, you must be prepared to work, to be responsible, to develop good habits of mind, to pursue your education actively, to appreciate your professors, and to work in partnership with us at the University. And remember, it was your ownaccomplishments that brought you here in the first place . . . and it is with a belief in your promise that we accepted you to Western New England University. When all is said and done, you will be judged against your own accomplishments, and you will judge yourself against these. So push yourself, stretch, grow. Avail yourself fully of the many opportunities that this university will afford you. You are embarking on a greater journey to understand the world, your place in it, and what you may be able to contribute to this world—now and in the future. Now that you are here, make a decision as to what you want to achieve and make a commitment to achieve it. Your life here with us and your own destiny are too important to be pursued without commitment on your part. Things just don’t happen. You have to commit to making them happen.

I welcome the parents and family members of our new students, for you too are a vital part of who we are. While we at the University play an important role in the development and growth of our students, our influence is only partial. When the light shines, it begins at home with you. Parents and family members, your influence, your support, your caring, and your wise counsel are essential for the success of our students. Please do not relinquish your personal responsibility. Stay linked to your sons and daughters whom you are entrusting to us, so that this light will continue to shine, perhaps even more brightly than ever before.

On this day, Friday, August 25, 2017, I officially open our 99th Academic Year at Western New England University.

Thank you. Welcome. And may this year be one of growth, good health, and fulfillment for each and every one of you here with us today.