Calling Together

Calling Together

Aug. 24, 2012

Pacific University welcomes new students with Convocation.

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I think I’d like to go back to college.

The start-of-term festivities continue here at Pacific this week, where students and their families were welcomed this morning with Convocation.

I haven’t been to a Convocation ceremony since my own freshman year. I remember faculty in costumes that were confusingly unfamiliar. I have less memory of the speeches, likely dampened in my mind by the influx of new information and experiences that come with the first days in a completely new world.

One hopes that a few of the students this morning were able to focus better.

It was a cool morning in the shade of the oaks on the east lawn of Marsh Hall. White chairs filled with new students—so many bedecked in Pacific red and black—and a handful of family members who stayed close by for their children’s first night at school.

Bagpipe music led the processional of faculty, sporting their traditional robes. (The program thoughtfully explained the meaning of this 12th-century European custom, though I suppose that for this generation, the robed teachers may be a comfortable reminiscence of Harry Potter.)

The speeches called for action, for service, for engagement, for thoughtfulness and for humanity. They likely offered many students their first introduction to the more academic, less pep-filled, spirit of college life.

University President Lesley Hallick told students about the culture of service and engagement here at Pacific—one of just nine universities to be named to the President’s Community Service Honor Roll for two consecutive years, with students giving more than 170,000 hours of service.

Faculty speaker Dr. Aaron Greer, assistant professor of anthropology and sociology, challenged students to spend the next four years expanding their capacity for humanity, learning about uncomfortable truths and working to make their world a better place for not only themselves but for all.

He told them not to accept an easy worldview, but to seek to understand other people better. What makes us special, he said, is “our ability to care about others and make the world a place where everybody can express their uniqueness and become more human.”

In closing, Dr. Lisa Carstens, new dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, said, “I envy you this stage of your life.”

I do, too.

Not the age—I do not want to be 18 again—but the opportunity, the world of possibilities and new information and insight that stands just waiting to be embraced.

We all learn throughout our lives—and who knows, I could always go back to school for another degree—but I don’t think you can ever recapture that first eye-opening, that exploration not only of a larger world but your own identity.

And so, I add my words to the undoubtedly vociferous others imparting advice to students today:  Enjoy this experience. It goes far too fast.