Students from 18 countries, 42 states, and the District of Columbia were welcomed to Emerson College with dancing, advice, vision, and some colorful stories on the part of administrators at the Cutler Majestic Theatre on Wednesday, August 31.
The Class of 2020, in addition to being drawn from a record number of applicants, has the highest entering grade point average in Emerson’s history, Vice President for Enrollment Management Ruthanne Madsen said at the President’s Welcome.
“We are destined to create some serious business ideas while having some great laughs along the way,” Madsen said.
Another newcomer to Emerson is Jim Hoppe, vice president and dean of campus life, who started July 1.
“We made the right choice by being here,” Hoppe told the students. “This is an incredible place to be. It’s one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever been, and one of the most endearing and enduring communities.”
Hoppe, who gave a rundown of the Class of 2020’s demographics (24 percent identify as persons of color, 18 percent identify as LGBTQ, 51 percent have an alumni relative), as well as its names (“Ten of you are Hannahs, one from Montana. Alas, no Hannah Montanas.”) shared a memory from his own freshman year at the University of New Mexico.
He and his family walked into his new dorm room to find his roommate, whom he hadn’t yet met, buck naked.
“We’re all standing there quiet, and eventually the silence got to be too much to bear, and so I walked up to him, held my hand out and said, ‘Hi, I’m Jim. I’d like you to meet my parents,’” Hoppe recalled. He and his roommate did not become close friends, he said, but the experience taught him to make the best of what life throws your way.
President Lee Pelton emphasized the “four C’s” that every Emerson graduate will need to embrace in order to change the world for the better: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.
“Broadly understood, creativity is really the capacity to approach problems imaginatively, to generate multiple ways of coming at an issue, to take risks, and of course, failing now and then, understanding that this is what it takes to come up with new and better ways of doing things,” Pelton said. “Creativity knits together theory and practice, making and doing, and it exists no matter whether you are in the arts or the sciences.”
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Sylvia Spears said that every year, she shares with incoming students her hopes for them in their time at Emerson, but this year calls for something more, “because we are living in complex and sometimes very troublesome times…
“We all need to listen not just to those with a platform for self-expression, but also to notice whose voice is absent. What facts are missing and whose version of reality is being told,” Spears said. “Speaking truth to power is important, it’s essential, and it’s called for in these times.”
Emily Solomon ’17, executive president of the Student Government Association, also talked about truth, something she said was at the heart of every good story, whether fiction or nonfiction. She said every storyteller at Emerson needs to decide if they are going to perpetuate hatred with their stories or lift people up.
“You have the power to change minds, to shift paradigms…to change the world,” Solomon said. “When I tell you you’re about to spend the next few years learning how to tell the truth, don’t take me lightly.
“Push the boundaries, not just for your own sake, but for the sake of the person sitting next to you,” she said.
Other speakers included Rhiannon Luyster, assistant professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, who advised students to take risks, try new things, and not expect their careers to travel a straight path; Travis Small, president of the Emerson Alumni Association, who encouraged students to start networking and building experiences immediately; and Melanie Matson and Greta Spoering from the Office of Violence Prevention and Response, who talked about resources available to students who have experienced assault, bullying, or harassment, and introduced an interactive theater piece about active bystander intervention.