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Convocation Address 2018

President Anthony S. Caprio

August 24, 2018
Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to this opening of Academic Year 2018-19. Fall Convocation is a very special day for us at Western New England University. The University started out in 1919 as a branch of Boston’s Northeastern College, now University. Then in 1951 we became Western New England College and remained such until we were awarded University status in 2011. We then formally changed our name to Western New England University.

Our University has undergone a remarkable evolution over these years. There have been many adventuresome pioneers in the history of this institution, and you are the newest pioneers, all of you here today—new students, returning students, faculty, and staff. We all share the responsibility to shape our new destiny, especially as we embark on our upcoming Centennial Celebration in the calendar year 2019. This University propelled itself into its first century, transformed itself many times, and will shine brightly and proudly as it celebrates its 100thanniversary. There is so much to look forward to as we envision our next one-hundred years. So welcome to Western New England University. Every one of you in this facility contributes to our success and to the position of strength from which we will craft our future.

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. It is our practice to help each other see to what heights we can aspire. I congratulate the academic achievement award recipients who will be recognized shortly. I hope our new students will be inspired to achieve academic fulfillment as you have.

Now let me share with you a profile of our new students—some numbers and some details concerning your many interests, talents, and accomplishments. Students, you were selected for admission from an applicant pool of exactly 6,942 students. You follow in the footsteps of thousands of graduates of the University—47,345 other men and women who have studied, grown, and matured at this institution. You are 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.

Your number is about 910—first-year and transfer students—as of today the largest in University history! The tally is not yet final. Our first-year students have come from 372 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 Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts to Valencia, Spain; from Anthem, Arizona to Al Jahra, Kuwait; from Hamden, Connecticut, to Hamilton, Bermuda; from West Sand Lake, New York to Wattle Grove, Australia; from Middletown, New Jersey to Murmansk, Russia; from Derry, New Hampshire to Dubai, United Arab Emirates; from Sunrise, Florida to our own Springfield, Massachusetts.

Fifty percent (50%) of you are from Massachusetts; thirty percent (30%) from Connecticut, and seven percent (7%) from New York. You reside in 20 states or are from 16 foreign countries.

Our transfer students have attended 63 different colleges in 13 states—from Ithaca College, Sacred Heart, University of New Haven, Babson, Endicott, URI, Purdue, University of Wyoming, and so many other fine institutions from across the U.S., and from nearby Springfield Technical Community College, Holyoke, Tunxis, and Asnuntuck Community Colleges.  

Twenty-four percent (24%) of you list yourselves 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, ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, or personal belief.

You have expressed interest in 67 separate majors or concentrations. Although many of you will change your major, these are the top five (5) majors you have selected at this time: Seventy-three (73) of you will major in Criminal Justice; sixty-five (65) plan to study Sport Management; sixty-one (61) of you will pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering; thirty-eight (38) of you plan to major in Psychology, and thirty-six (36) will pursue Biomedical Engineering. More broadly speaking, one hundred and sixty (160) of you will be focusing your studies in the Physical or Biological Sciences, and fifty-two (52) of you will pursue studies in Accounting or Finance. If you are among the one hundred and fifty-two (152) new students who are still deciding on a major, not to worry! We will help you explore.

I am pleased to see that eighty-nine (89) of you have been conditionally admitted into one of our five-year joint bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in Business or Engineering, and eighty (80) 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.

Your academic credentials are impressive. Your average SAT scores are significantly above the national average with an 1154 combined on the math and verbal sections. This also represents the highest average SAT score for an incoming class in University history! Your average high school GPA is a 3.37. There are two hundred and fifty-two (252) of you who are freshmen that have completed college courses while still in high school or have college credits through Advancement Placement (AP) courses. Thirty-four (34) of you will be matriculating as second semester freshmen, eleven (11) freshmen in the audience are actually matriculating with enough credits to be classified as sophomores and one (1) of you is just nine credits shy of having enough credits to be classified as a junior.

Many students have received academic honors or personal accolades. For example, ninety-nine (99) of you were members of the National Honor Society. You have been inducted into honor societies related to many academic areas including math, art, and foreign languages. Eleven (11) of our new incoming transfer students are current Phi Theta Kappa Scholars. Many of you were awarded scholarships from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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) expressed an interest in joining an academic club, one hundred and forty-five (145) of you told us you would like to study abroad, thirty-four (34) are interested in joining the dance team and seventeen (17) of you would like to be a part of our bowling club. I hope you will all choose to become involved and join a club or organization while studying here.
  • Many of you have been active in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. At least seven (7) of you are Eagle Scouts and three (3) of you are members of the Order of the Arrow, which is scouting’s National Honor Society. One among you is the recipient of the Girl Scouts Gold Award, which is the highest honor a Girl Scout senior ambassador can receive.
  • With regard to athletics and other competitive endeavors: One-hundred and thirty-nine (139) of you served as captains of your high school varsity athletics team. Twenty-six (26) of you competed on your school’s F.I.R.S.T. Robotics team and another twenty-four (24) were captains or leaders of your school’s Gaming Team. Also among us we have at least four (4) black belts in the martial arts, one of you regularly competes in sanctioned boxing and mixed martial arts matches, and we have a captain of a competitive paintball team. Four (4) of you were captains of your ice hockey team, and we have a student who won the Western Massachusetts Golfers Championship. We also have a semi-professional go-kart racer and a student who played for the New South Wales Gridiron team in the Australian National Gridiron Championship.
  • Many of you have been involved in your school newspaper or yearbook, including several serving as editors. Twelve (12) of you identify yourselves as amateur or professional photographers, One of you has written a novel and one of you manages your own weekly fashion blog. We also have an on-air disc-jockey and a student who served as the lead camerawoman for her school’s nationally recognized TV station.
  • Many of you have also been involved in student government, peer mediation, coaching, and Model United Nations. We have an impressive list of students this year who have given service to the United States of America, and for this we thank you. Four (4) of you are veterans of the United States Army, one (1) is a veteran of the United States Marines, and one (1) student who currently serves in the United States Air National Guard.
  • Volunteerism and the desire to help others is another theme in this class. We have one of you who co-founded an organization called “Cycle for Disciples,” a non-profit organization that raises money to provide bicycles to missionaries who travel to remote villages. Three (3) of you are volunteer firefighters. We have at least six (6) among you who regularly volunteer for the Special Olympics, one of whom traveled to Austria to coach an Olympian who went on to win the overall bronze medal. One of you volunteered as a “seal counter” and horseshoe crab “tagger” for four years to help improve conservation efforts on the Long Island Sound. We have a 911 dispatcher among us as well as a student whose family has raised more than $700,000 towards cancer research as part of their annual charity golf tournament.
  • There are many budding entrepreneurs among you. We have a student who has a patent pending for a product he designed called the “Lazy Lock,” two (2) students who started their own landscaping business that combined have ten (10) full-time employees, a student who owns a business where she dresses as Anna from “Frozen” at birthday parties, and a student who started a food truck festival that is now an annual event in his hometown. These entrepreneurs will join dozens of Western New England students seriously engaged in entrepreneurial activities who are guided skillfully by our own faculty.
  • Some of you have already studied or traveled abroad. You have already traveled to or attended school in Belarus, Costa Rica, Egypt, Croatia, Spain, Bolivia, Poland and several other countries. One of you worked in a nursing home in Belize and another of you was named “development chief” of village Aferie in Ghana as a result of your philanthropic efforts to help the village. Each year we provide an ever-increasing number of international opportunities with more and more students going abroad.

                                Yes, you are an accomplished, diversified, diverse, and interesting group!

 For some, you are carrying on a family tradition. Twenty-three (23) of you have a parent who graduated from Western New England. Fifteen (15) have a sibling who graduated from here, and one-hundred and thirty five (135) of you have a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or cousin who earned their degree from our institution. I am sure they value the education they received at Western New England and are glad to have you follow in their footsteps.

Students, much has been given to you, and you will receive even 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 accomplishments 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.

On this day, Friday, August 24, 2018, I officially open Academic Year 2018-2019, our 100thacademic 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.