WOOSTER, Ohio – As The College of Wooster officially opened its 150th academic year on Thursday, Sarah Bolton, entering her fourth year as president, paused to not only celebrate the milestone, but took the opportunity during Convocation to “recommit to our core values” while delivering the keynote address.
Bolton, in helping set the tone for the year ahead, asked the audience of students, faculty, and staff inside McGaw Chapel to consider two questions: “What might the College do to ensure that we realize our mission in the most powerful ways for the decades to come?” and “What might the students gathered here today undertake right now … to prepare for lives of purpose and of impact?”
Offering her perspective on those matters, Bolton suggested Wooster will “reinvest” and “double down” on three of the institution’s historic virtues – to serve as “a place for all studies,” to “be a place of studies for all people,” and where “every student applies their learning to do something that is important and new.” She expanded on each of those commitments, stressing the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary work between academic departments and continuing to build Wooster’s internationality and diversity, and saved some of her strongest commentary for Independent Study.
“Decades before our peers, Wooster realized the power of having every student act on their learning through our bold commitment to I.S. We insisted that every student would ask questions, create new knowledge, art, or understanding. Now, we have the opportunity to take that distinctive model … one step further, to deepen and make more universal the connections between learning in the classroom and engagement with the campus, the local community, and the world, so that every student has the opportunity to bring collective work to meaningful action. With (those) powerful experiences, our students will have unparalleled preparation to make an outsized difference through the lives that they live, the work that they do, and the people that they are,” she said.
Addressing the second question, Bolton encouraged students to engage not just in their studies, but with each other, which included taking some lighthearted digs at society’s current obsession with social media. Instead of staring at devices, she implored students “to make the most of Wooster’s greatest resource, which is the people around you,” thus recommitting to “a lived, in person, face-to-face intentional community” because “connecting deeply with others … allows us to understand our world, one another, and even ourselves.”
Also helping inaugurate the 2019-20 academic year were senior student leaders Courtney Lockhart, Emilee McCubbins, Garima Nayar, and Alberto Peralta. Lockhart, the president of the Black Student Association, offered sound advice for the first-years, encouraging them to “clear (their) mantel of past achievements,” so to “make room for (their) growth,” while McCubbins, the president of the Student Government Association, reminded her classmates that there’s only “8 months, 17 days, and 23 hours till graduation” and that they should “live in the moment” because they’ll “never be in this situation with these people again.”
Nayar gave several bits of sage advice, including “work smart, not hard” and “the only way to get out of something is to go through it,” and observed that while students are often reminded “Wooster is the Princeton of the Midwest … most Ivy’s can’t provide what Wooster does, and that’s the Wooster community.” Peralta, who emigrated from Mexico at a young age and now is president of Wooster’s Organization of Latin American Students, focused his remarks on an issue dear to his heart—the crisis at the southern border—and encouraged all in attendance “to not be silent” and “don’t be afraid of change you want to be.”