The University of Redlands welcomed incoming College of Arts & Sciences students with a Convocation ceremony in Memorial Chapel, with remarks from President Krista Newkirk, University Dean of Student Life Donna Eddleman, Interim Dean Steve Wuhs, and Associated Students of the University of Redlands President Chloe Levine ’22, as well as an invocation from John Walsh, former U of R Omer E. Robbins Chaplain, and a rendition of the “Alma Mater” featuring Campus Diversity and Inclusion’s Peter Tupou as solo vocalist. A separate ceremony was held specifically for sophomores, many of whom were arriving to live and study on campus for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here, the Bulldog Blog shares Newkirk’s remarks to the Class of 2025, as well as video excerpts from her speech.
Welcome, Class of 2025. You're here! We're so excited. I would like to begin by acknowledging the original and continued caretakers of the land where the University of Redlands sits, the Serrano and Cahuilla tribes.
Now, this is my very first Convocation at Redlands, so today marks a momentous occasion for you and for me. Like you, I am new to this great University. I moved to California and took office just 40 days ago. Like you, I said goodbye to family and friends, I packed up all my favorite things, and headed to Redlands for a grand adventure.
There's a good chance that, like me, you packed too much, and are now struggling to find a place for everything—maybe even putting some things back in your parents’ cars before they leave. So, Class of 2025, we are in this together, and I officially name you my class, because we are both freshmen together.
Here's the deal: If you see me wandering around campus, lost, help me out, and I'll do the same for you. And if neither of us can find where we're going, we'll just go get coffee together, OK? OK.
Now you've been through a lot these last 18 months: classes moved online, you saw many events canceled, and you may have even lost loved ones, or have dealt with economic impact from the pandemic.
In short, the fact that you are here means that you have risen to the challenge and are moving forward with courage, grit, and grace. You can be assured that the University has worked and will continue to work tirelessly to make sure that your experiences here are safe.
Now, like you, I am exhilarated to begin my first year with my family in our new University home. Like you, I chose Redlands. Perhaps we even chose Redlands for the same reasons. I committed to leading this University because I saw the strength of its programs, opportunities to focus on social justice, its beautiful campus, and, most of all, its warm and engaging community.
So all 619 of us—that includes me—are now part of that close-knit Bulldog community that drew you in. It is a large and influential community, made up of a talented and diverse family of scholars, athletes, activists, and artists, supported by the faculty, staff, and Redlands citizens. This is an old and far-reaching community that has been cultivated since this University began in 1907. It is an educational force committed to honing your mind and nurturing your emotional, social, and physical well-being.
In reading your backgrounds and learning more about you, I can see already that the Class of 2025 will make a great contribution to the history of this university. Let me tell you a little bit about your class. You represent more than 30 states and several international countries. A third of you are scholar-athletes. Almost 40 percent of you are among the first in your family to attend college. Thirteen percent are legacy students, meaning that someone in your family attended the University of Redlands before you.
You are entrepreneurs: You design and create furniture, you run your own footwear business, you create board games and teach fitness. You are leaders: You are captains of athletic teams, orchestras and bands, editors-in-chief of yearbooks, captains of mock trial and debate teams, and heads of gaming clubs for young women. You are researchers: You studied climate change in Iceland, biodiversity in South Africa, and presented your findings at scientific academies.
You are caregivers, who have taken on additional responsibilities by taking care of siblings, grandparents, and extended family members.
Yes, Class of 2025 you're going to fit right in at the University of Redlands. If you take the time to be an active, giving member of this community, if you embrace everything this institution offers, you will find yourself opening up to new perspectives. Here, you will choose what values you want to live by, the work you want to do, the friends you make and keep—but the main reason you are here is to engage in a strong and meaningful educational experience.
What is the purpose of college? Despite the cynicism that it is all about a diploma or the ability to get a better job, these four years are a gift in your life that you will come to cherish. You see, a good education will make you question yourself, your beliefs, and the assumptions upon which you have based your opinions. But a great education teaches you to question everything, and how to find—and ask—the questions you need in any given situation.
Your goal is not to leave here with all of the answers, for that is not possible. Your goal is to leave here as a person who asked challenging questions, and who has the ability to find and discern the truth. I hope that this education leaves you wanting more out of life. Not more materially, but more in terms of fulfillment, curiosity, expectations, and the passion and ability to push for a better world.
You will remember that I said that one of the reasons I came to Redlands is because of the people. People here are wonderful. We often underestimate the value of friends and support groups. Research shows that those of us who have friends are more resilient, make better decisions, and do better when we struggle. That research also says that to call someone a close friend, you must spend 200 hours together. No, that doesn't include sending snaps or having a really long snap spree. It’s taking the time to sit down with somebody. You have to introduce yourself and get to know the people around you whom you haven't met.
So here's what we're going to do: We're going to take a break. I want you to turn and introduce yourself to the people around you who you don't know. Tell them where you're from. Ask about a hobby. Take a selfie. Take a moment, take your time. We'll wait.
Now, I hope that you discovered people near you, who you didn't know who had different backgrounds or interests, and that you learn from each other. That is one of the hidden secrets to a great college education.
We, the faculty and staff, are just one small piece of this. You also learn from those who are around you, those individuals who are different than you, and who have different perspectives and beliefs. You will find that exploring people's lives and diversity with all the elements of strangeness and differences is what makes studying at the University of Redlands an extraordinary experience.
So I want to leave you with this one last thought. I do not want you to receive an education at Redlands. You are here to be the driver of your education. How do you do that? Well, here are just a few tips.
First, go to class. Right, faculty?
Second, join a club or participate in an extracurricular activity. If you can't find a club that interests you, start your own—it is easier than you think.
Third, go study in Salzburg or another study abroad trip. These experiences are baked into your education here. They are affordable and they are transformational.
Fourth, get involved in the community. Redlands is a wonderful place, with a rich history. Find ways to contribute, volunteer, and give back.
Fifth, take a class completely outside of your major or your interests, and see if you discover something new that you love or a new passion.
And, finally, squeeze everything you can out of your time here. Run for office, participate in summer research—like a group of our students in the summer when they went to Alaska and took samples from great glaciers to study microplastics and the bacteria that could break them down—amazing. Attend a play or an athletic competition, or a concert. Sign up and come visit with me and my dog, Cookie. Let’s get to know each other.
Can you graduate from the University of Redlands by only doing the minimum and just studying for exams and writing papers? Sure. But what a waste that would be.
You are investing in your education, and we are invested in you. Make the most of this time, so that when you cross the stage in 2025 with that diploma in your hand, and you leave here as a lifelong member of the Bulldog community, you are prepared to go into the world armed with the ability to think critically, make wise decisions, and lead a life of justice.
We are so excited to welcome you, Class of 2025, to the Redlands community. You are a Bulldog for life! Och Tamale!
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