On Tuesday, Sept. 18, the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) held its first convocation in Wilkins Theatre. The purpose of this event was to welcome new and returning students to the CLA and inspire them for this academic year and the remainder of their time at Kean University.
The convocation also gave the students an opportunity to get to know their professors on a deeper level and form better relationships. Additionally, it allowed CLA students with the same major to bond and get to know each other better.
The ceremony began with a video highlighting Kean University and the CLA. Dr. Jonathan Mercantini, acting dean of the CLA gave the opening remarks by firstly thanking everyone who contributed in the planning of the convocation. He explained the purpose of the event and the sense of community that the CLA team is striving to create.
President Dawood Farahi, Ph.D. gave his remarks concerning the event.
He went into further detail on why this is a vital event, saying, “Why do we have a convocation? Because it’s the start of your journey at Kean, and you finish that journey four years from now at the Prudential Center. You’ll walk on the stage with all your family members there, and you will graduate.”
This was a common theme throughout the event, with all of the speakers focusing on the importance of getting a college degree.
Dean Mercantini returned to the podium to give his speech following the president. He also focused on the importance of finishing school and earning a degree, especially in today’s time.
He touched on the misconception that college graduates are not able to find jobs, stating, “Unemployment is lower, income is higher, opportunity is greater for those with a college degree.”
He also explained the benefits of having a degree in liberal arts, saying that one will have an excelled ability to communicate with others, work collaboratively in diverse teams and think critically.
It is important for one to realize that higher education is not a luxury, rather it is a necessity.
Mercantini stressed this as he continued his speech, saying, “Don’t complain about having to learn something unfamiliar. Don’t view attending class as a chore; it’s an opportunity. History is made by those who show up. Sure I get as excited about a snow day as everyone else — you’ll see that in January — but it’s vital just not to go to class, but to engage with your classmates and engage with your professors.” Additionally, he emphasized the importance of students and professors bonding.
Following the dean was the program's guest speaker, Terrance Hayes. He attended Coker College where he studied painting and English, where he was an Academic All-American on the men’s basketball team. He continued his education at the University of Pittsburgh where he earned his MFA. Hayes has taught in a variety of places such as Japan, Columbus, Ohio and New Orleans, Louisiana. Additionally, he has taught at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and is now a professor at New York University. He has written many works, such as Muscular Music, Hip Logic, Wind In A Box, How to be Drawn, Lighthead, To Float in the Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversations with Etheridge Knight and American Sonnets For My Past and Future Assassin which he highlighted in his speech.
The focal point of Professor Hayes’ speech was passion and the significance of finding what one's passion is. He told the story of how he was lucky enough to be a first generation college student due to his basketball scholarship. What he discovered at school, however, is that art is his real passion.
He posed the question: “What are you doing when you’re not doing other people’s work?”
For Hayes, he discovered that for him it is poetry. He showed the audience this by reading several of his poems from his work American Sonnets For My Past and Future Assassin.
Following the guest speaker was Kean University student, Jianna Pisa. Pisa is a junior psychology major on track to graduating in May 2020. She had the opportunity to participate in “Dean for a Day” last semester, a program in which a chosen student shadows the dean. Due to this experience and the time she has spent in the CLA, she was able to create great bonds with her professors and the staff of the CLA. The staff and professors have helped her tremendously in finding her path, and she urged students to form bonds, like she did, to enhance their community and overall college experience.
The convocation ended after Dean Mercantini gave his closing remarks, once again thanking everyone who aided in planning the event and inspiring students to expand their horizons. The professors then exited Wilkins Theatre and everyone broke off by major for some complimentary ice cream. It was here where students had the opportunity to converse with their professors and peers and get to know them on a deeper level.
When asked about what students should take away from this event, theater professor Rachel Evans said, “I think it is all about community and coming together both as peers with your fellow students and your given majors. It’s also about the community of people who share the same values that the College of Liberal Arts does, and hopefully we were all inspired by Professor Hayes and his presentation.”
Chloe Senatore, sophomore English writing and journalism double major said, “I can take away from it that poetry is a lot more deep and important than I had known before. I also learned that a lot more majors are included in the liberal arts program, which is really interesting. It enlightened me to the fact that liberal arts allows for a lot more imaginative experiences within college than I realized before either.”
The first annual CLA Convocation was successful in inspiring students not only to complete their degree, but to follow their passions. The CLA staff portrayed their care for the students by hosting this event for them.