President Chodosh, Prof. Selig stress community, activism at Convocation
CMC welcomed students, faculty, and staff with calls for action, activism, and an inclusive spirit of community at its 70th annual convocation on Tuesday. It was the first convocation to be held at the new Roberts Pavilion.
Rabbi Daniel Shapiro, CMC’s interim Jewish Chaplain, was the first to speak, giving the benediction. Rabbi Shapiro said there's an ongoing debate in Jewish literature whether it’s more important to spend time in deep study of books or to engage with the world and perform actions. deep engagement in study by sitting in thought all day studying books is of the greatest importance, or, perhaps, it is a more important priority to go out in get out into the world and perform actions.
“One sage tells us that study holds a higher significance because it will eventually lead to greater action,” Shapiro said. “But study may never be complete. The purpose is much deeper than just the acquisition of knowledge itself. The result of all study should be action. You are blessed to have the next four years to explore, and to learn and to prepare yourself to be those people whose deeper study can result in greater change for the world.”
Underscoring that sentiment, President Chodosh said CMC promotes the idea that deeper thought leads to greater action: “The liberal arts for thoughtful, productive lives and responsible leadership in the world.”
In President Chodosh’s view, convocation calls CMCers together in an effort to inspire faculty, staff, and students in their collective and individual responsibility to the CMC that mission. “We celebrate our staff and faculty through their impressive milestones of service and impact,” he said, “and we pause to reflect and remember why we’re all here, what drives us, and what we can and must learn from one another.”
President Chodosh cautioned that the excitement of a new academic cycle shouldn’t overshadow the steep challenges the world faces -- from problems in the Middle East to violence in our own streets; from drought to rising oceans.
“We look hard for ways to cut through our divisions,” President Chodosh said. “We try to seize the opportunities and reduce the harms. We can only alleviate these tough conditions and draw inspired solutions when we combine the power of thought and action; when we embark on a virtuous cycle of learning and doing, and we can only do that together.”
According to President Chodosh, the convocation provides an opportunity for the CMC community to come together in support of a greater shared purpose -- to develop the learning capabilities that the world needs from students. “That’s what our College is about,” he said. “That’s what CMC is for. None of us alone; no student, professor, or institute; no one president or dean can do this in isolation. We nourish one another.”
But principles without sacrifice render words empty of meaning. “If we are to learn, we must recognize what we don’t know,” President Chodosh said. “If we are to develop confidence, we must constantly take risks. If we are to cherish free speech, we must support and hear the speech with which we most disagree. The most persuasive arguments anticipate opposing viewpoints. Free expression without listening is of little use.”
“Diversity without engaged inclusion is only a surface, an optic, an image that glosses real barriers, a nice roof that hides the social partitions that divide, constrain, and can hurt us. If we are to have an inclusive community, we must learn from those we have not yet met or don’t really know. We need to work and play and learn together to break down those walls.”
Professor Diana Selig, Kingsley Croul Associate Professor of History and Roberts Fellow, offered advice to the class of 2020 as they ready themselves to start college careers. She said it might not be an easy path, especially given the state of the world today –- filled with violence, conflict, tragedy, and divisiveness and extremism both at home and abroad.
“Luckily for me, I’m a historian, and we historians have an advantage: We can look to the past for inspiration and ideas," she said. "Indeed, in my research I have been reading words of counsel offered to another class of ’20—that is, to the class of 1920”
Using ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote in 1920, as a reference point, Professor Selig followed the convocation theme of educated young people taking on world-improving responsibility.
Suffragists did not see passage of the 19th Amendment as the final goal, Professor Selig said. “Rather, they saw it as one important step in a broader struggle for political, social, and economic advancement. After suffrage, many of them turned their attention to educating a new generation.”
Professor Selig expounded on what suffragists considered to be three critical areas and the example they set for the Class of 2020:
- They wanted young people to know their history and were worried that they’d forget the struggles and sacrifices of those who had come before. “To you today, I would offer similar encouragement,” she said. “Learn history. And I don’t just mean the history of the women’s suffrage movement (although as you can tell, I find that story fascinating) or the history of the United States (although that history is essential for American citizenship and for life in the U.S.), and I don’t just mean history as taught in my own quite wonderful department.
"I mean history in a broader sense, as encountered in various disciplines and contexts—in science, in literature, in economics, in religious studies. History reminds us of the humanity of people in the past, who thought and acted in ways perhaps unfamiliar to us. Encountering their perspectives requires imagination and empathy. In the process, we gain compassion for people today who hold views and live lives different from our own, and we deepen our understanding of the wide range of experiences across societies and cultures.”
- They wanted young people to seek an education that would grant them the learning and the skills they would need for active and engaged citizenship. “To you today, I would emphasize the great good that can come from an education that is meaningful, inclusive, and engaged.,” Professor Selig said. “A liberal arts education—which is what you can gain here at CMC—can help you to understand the world, and your place in it, more clearly....
"So like earlier activists, I encourage you to lay claim to your own learning: to engage in inquiry and debate, to try on new arguments and opinions.”
- They wanted young people to stay active in the world. It was the heart of their effort. It was essential for effective civic life and political engagement. “To you today, I would echo this call,” Professor Selig said. “Much work remains to be done. Our country and our world need you. We need your intellectual capacities and your aspirations in order to address the pressing issues that confront us. We need your sharpness of mind and your generosity of heart.”
Perhaps fittingly, a student, Nicolas Blumm ’17, had the last word when he spoke about CMC, at its heart, being a large, wondrous community. “The lives of people you have yet to notice will become interwoven in yours in the most integral and intimate of ways over the course of the next few years,” he said. “You are embarking on some of the finest and craziest years of your life. Enjoy every minute of it. I would do anything to go back to my first day at CMC.
“Your deans, your president, and the many other wonderful people who make CMC run smoothly want you to be open with them,” he continued. “They want to explore your curiosities with you, to know if you’re feeling upset or anxious and to learn how they can do a better job. Talk to them, talk to us and don’t forget to earnestly listen. And I hope that when you lead, as you inevitably will, you do so with grace.”
At each annual convocation, CMC recognizes faculty and staff for outstanding achievements.
25 Years of Service
- Professor Scot Gould, Keck Science Center Professor of Physics
- Cindi Guimond, Director of Academic Administration
- Frederick R. Lynch, Associate Professor of Government
- Donald A. McFarlane, Keck Professor of Biology and Environmental Science
- David Skinner, Chef, Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum
30 Years of Service
- Kersey A. Black, Keck Professor of Chemistry
- David Edwards, Manager, Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum
- Brenda Petrali, Administrative Assistant, Office of the Registrar
- John J. Pitney, Jr., Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics
- Lillian Ramirez, Building Attendant III
- Stephen A. Naftilan, Keck Professor of Physics
- Ralph A. Rossum P’01 P’08, Salvatori Professor of Political Philosophy and American Constitutionalism
35 Years of Service
- Charlene Kile, Employer Relations Coordinator, Career Services
- Stephen A. Naftilan, Keck Professor of Physics
- Eduardo Valdez, Lead Cook, Collins Dining Hall
50 Years of Service
- Gerald L. Bradley, Associate Professor of Education
Exceptional Service Awards
- Rosa Hernandez, Building Attendant I
- Victor Valdez, Utility Worker, Marion Miner Cook Athenaeum
- Presidential Award for Merit:
Asuman G. Aksoy, Crown Professor of Mathematics and Roberts Fellow
- Dean’s Distinguished Service Award:
Ron E. Riggio, Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology
Hilary Appel, Podlich Family Professor of Government and Roberts Fellow
- Crocker Award for Merit:
Wei-Chin Hwang, Assistant Professor of Psychology
- Huntoon Award for Superior Teaching:
Paul Hurley, Edward J. Sexton Professor of Philosophy
- G. David Huntoon Senior Teaching Award:
William Ascher, Donald C. McKenna Professor of Government and Economics, Robert Day School of Economics and Finance
- Laura Grant, Assistant Professor of Economics, Robert Day School of Economics and Finance
- Lisa Koch, Assistant Professor of Government
- Findley Finseth, Assistant Professor of Biology, Keck Science Center
- Maj. Michael Doyle, Professor of Military Science
- Terrance Tumey, CMS Director of Athletics, Physical Education & Recreational Services
- David Day, Professor of Psychology and Director of Kravis Leadership Institute
- Chelsea Zi Wang, Visiting Post-Doctoral Professor of History