Expose yourself to uncomfortable ideas. Try things you’re not sure you’ll like. Try things you’re not sure are possible.
New Emerson students got a lot of advice from faculty, fellow students, and one alumna Thursday morning during the President’s Welcome, an annual Orientation event that introduces first-year students to the Emerson experience.
As the Class of 2021 streamed into the Cutler Majestic Theatre, President Lee Pelton, fresh from dropping his own daughter off at college the day before, stood in the doorway, waiting to greet the students with a smile and a handshake.
“An Emerson education…will change you in the ways that the best colleges do, helping you to become a more focused and more fully realized version of yourself, so that you become, paraphrasing Plato, not only fit company for others, but for yourself as well,” Pelton said in his opening remarks.
The president stressed the “four C’s” necessary to 21st-century life and cultivated at the College—Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication—as well as the diversity of people and ideas so crucial to success.
This class arrives at Emerson less than a month after “hate, bigotry, and racism reared their ugly heads” in Charlottesville, Virginia, Pelton said.
“Let me say, unequivocally, that such repugnant behavior has no place on our campus,” he said. “We are a community that cherishes—and thrives on—the diversity of ideas and people acting together in shared interests, and in the enduring power of our common humanity.”
Provost Michaele Whelan put in a plug for one of the College’s 17 liberal arts minors and encouraged students to engage civically with communities around them and take advantage of Emerson’s many international programs and opportunities.
An Emerson education will require students to develop intellectually, professionally, and morally, she said.
“Take intellectual risks,” Whelan told the students. “This is your investment. Your education is not about your GPA; it’s about striving, seeking, and meeting the goals you set….If you find yourself wondering if you can do it, you’ve made the right choice.”
Students heard from the deans of Emerson’s three schools—Dean Rob Sabal from the School of the Arts, Dean Raul Reis from the School of Communication, and Dean Amy Ansell from the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies—as well as students (and one recent alumna) from each.
Lucie McCormick graduated last May with a BFA in Film Production and has been working as an associate producer on a local documentary as well as some freelance projects.
She had a number of experiences in her four years at Emerson that helped shape who she was: meeting her best friends, studying in Prague, making a documentary in Colombia. She worked on a film for Giorgio Armani, and on a different project, met a man, recently released from prison, who was selling fruit in Downtown Crossing at 2:00 am because he couldn’t get a job.
“It wasn’t just that [the experiences] helped me grow personally, it was that they helped me connect to people,” McCormick said. “If you only pursue what you think you’re supposed to pursue…then your art will be a vessel with nothing to put in it.”
Senior Gregory Massimino-Garcia is a Communication Disorders major who came to Emerson thinking he wanted to work with children with autism. After taking American Sign Language courses, he decided he wanted to work with the deaf population. Today, he’s planning to go to graduate school and work with people with speech disorders.
“It’s O.K. to change your mind about what you want to do or not know what you want to do,” Massimino-Garcia said. “I’ve come to learn I really love working with people, partly because everything I’ve done at Emerson has involved collaboration.”
Dean Amy Ansell gave the students three reasons why the liberal arts are crucial to their education, regardless of their major or career goals: A solid grounding in the liberal arts will help students get, keep, and switch jobs more easily; it will enrich their inner lives tremendously; and it will help them be better citizens of the world.
“You are entering a world desperately in need of creative, informed, engaged citizens who can point ways to new answers,” Ansell said.
Lily Walsh, a new Film Production major from Columbus, Ohio, and Manchester, New Hampshire native Meredith Stisser, a Writing for Film and Television major, said they appreciated hearing the message that exploration and experimentation is encouraged at Emerson.
“It was comforting [to hear] that people switched their major and you don’t have to stick with what you started with,” Walsh said.
“It’s nice to know not everyone has to know exactly what they want,” Stisser added.