Read the full text of Bolton’s address
WOOSTER, Ohio – President Sarah Bolton put forth a challenge to students, faculty, and staff during her Convocation address, urging one and all to understand each other more fully, which will in turn lead to a committed and intentional community of learners, as The College of Wooster officially opened its 147th academic year on Thursday.
Bolton, who began her duties as president on July 1, set the tone for 2016-17 by encouraging everybody to put down their devices and engage in meaningful conversation, even if one knows there will be a disagreement. “The transformative power that is needed most at this moment is not that of additional technology, but rather the power of a recommitment to the lived, in person, face-to-face, intentional community of learners,” she said.
This radical strategy, according to Bolton, will allow Wooster to rise above a divisive campaign season and the steady stream of discrimination and violence across the country, resulting in conversations that will enable the change most of society seeks.
“At Wooster, we have a sacred opportunity to undertake this transformative work, and through the understanding we gain, to learn things that will empower us to act to create a more just world,” Bolton stated. “Through academic work, we can infuse these in-person conversations with not just our own experiences and views … we can learn to disagree while respecting not just one another, but also central tenets of justice, humanity, and equality. We can learn to look at ourselves to recognize our own privileges, biases, and prejudices, and act to address them.”
Bolton also noted Convocation always presents a striking difference for the seniors, who sit in their academic gowns with just nine months to go before graduation, and the first-years, who took in their first college class the previous day. She quipped to the former that they “will finish their I.S.’s” while reminding them of their “remarkable opportunities” ahead. And to the latter, a Class of 2020 consisting of 547 students, including 112 domestic students of color (20%) and 74 international students (13%), from 36 states and 30 countries, she emphasized that they are not beginners because they bring a “deep history from your own families, cultures, and the learning and living you did” prior to coming to Wooster.
Students Spencer Gilbert ’17, president of the Student Government Association, and Chadwick Smith ’17, president of the Black Student Association, helped usher in the new year as well. Gilbert eloquently reminded his senior classmates that “there is a moral component to leaving something better than you found it,” while Smith’s rousing speech took inspiration from the OutKast song “Git Up, Git Out,” invoking the audience to “Get up, get out, get peace, justice, and understanding.”
Before Bolton brought down the gavel to start 2016-17, long-time campus chaplain Linda Morgan-Clement tearfully blessed the Wooster community one last time and provost Carolyn Newton recognized faculty members Sharon Lynn (biology), who was promoted to full professor, and Ahmet Atay (communication), Laura Burch (French), Philip Mellizo (economics), and Laura Sirot (biology), who were promoted to associate professor with tenure.