109th Convocation gets Conn’s academic year off to a sharp start
Even hazy skies and the sun steadily slipping behind the trees on South Campus could not diminish the enthusiasm of Connecticut College’s students, staff and faculty at the College’s 109th Convocation on Aug. 28. During the event, the newest Camels, including 561 first-years, 17 transfers and one RTC student, formally joined the wider Conn community.
But as exciting as starting college can be, it can also be disorienting, anxiety-provoking or even terrifying, Associate Professor of Film Studies Nina Martin acknowledged in her keynote Convocation speech.
“Any big change in one’s life can make you feel all sorts of emotions, and fear and anxiety are pretty common when you are stepping into something unknown,” she affirmed in her address, “Survival Tips from Final Girls.”
Martin, who in the spring was recognized with Conn’s 2023 John S. King Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, acknowledged that it isn’t just transitioning to college that might have students’ nerves on edge. “Unfortunately, fear and anxiety have been our frequent companions, especially over the last decade,” she empathized. “We have a legitimate cause for fear as we see threats to our rights, our privacy, our bodies, our economic future, democracy, the planet.”
As the title of her speech suggested, Martin reached for the lessons the iconic survivors of horror movies—colloquially “final girls”—can teach us all about how to face and process our fears. Before providing those insights, she highlighted how the “final girls” term had evolved to encompass groups and people of any gender identity.
Martin shared five tips for “survival,” including, “Be prepared and do your research,” “Stand up to bullies,” “Know your Monsters,” “Challenge yourself and be resilient,” and “Practice empathy—toward others, and toward yourself.” She stressed the importance of the last one in particular, emphasizing, “You are not alone. Empathy and community are key to helping us survive and flourish in an often frightening and harsh world. I encourage you to practice empathy in all the things you do and with the people you encounter here at Connecticut College and beyond.”
Like the horror cinema she described as her specialty, Martin’s message reached those assembled on Conn’s iconic Tempel Green with a mix of honesty, humor and metaphor that should serve everyone well in the coming year.
“You will find your own Scooby Gang to help you fight the monsters,” she assured the new students. “Connecticut College is committed to teaching you how to recognize these monsters, name them, and provide the tools to fight them here and beyond.”
Convocation began with a procession that took the students—accompanied by two bagpipers and a snare drummer—from behind the Athey Center at Palmer Auditorium to the center of Tempel Green. The procession was followed by a land acknowledgment from Interim Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion Nakia Hamlett.
The Rev. Stephanie Haskins, director of Religious and Spiritual Programs, provided an invocation. In it, she encouraged the students to “be as many different versions of yourself as you dare.” She recognized the cliché of many telling the Class of 2027 that they were about to embark on the “best four years of their lives,” admitting that may or may not prove the case. Regardless, she explained, it will be the next four years of their lives, which is “sacred all by itself.”
Interim President Les Wong also addressed the audience, encouraging students to “own their own mind.” He also implored them to look beyond the intellectual rigors of college and themselves and argued that each student should strive to “Be nice. And to be kind.”
Tradition dominated the final act of Convocation as students recited the Matriculation Pledge, were officially welcomed to the school year by Chair of the Connecticut College Board of Trustees Debo P. Adegbile ’91, and sang the Alma Mater led by Executive Director of the Hale Center for Career Development Persephone L. Hall.
Finally, the students processed to select members of the New London Big Band playing a rousing version of “When The Saints Go Marching In”—symbolically marching into their futures and to no doubt discover the members of “their Scooby Gang”: the classmates, faculty and other members of the Conn community they will count on to survive and thrive these next four years.