Welcoming the Class of 2026
The 2022-23 academic year kicked off at this year’s Convocation ceremony, which also officially welcomed the Class of 2026 to the Nest. The MacDonald Gymnasium event housed all 873 first-year students. Various faculty members were also in attendance, participating in the academic processional.
Brandi Johnson, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, welcomed everyone and explained the theme for this academic year, which is Belonging is Our Sixth Sense.
“Whatever the circumstance, belonging is a fundamental human need and it is necessary to feel empowered and supported, which is directly tied to your success this year at college, in life, and, importantly, to your well-being—mentally, physically, and spiritually,” she said.
President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D., also addressed the students about the idea of belonging. DiSalvo described his own experience growing up in Queens, N.Y., with his grandmother living nearby. He felt like he belonged, a powerful feeling.
At Endicott, DiSalvo said a sense of community has been created in various ways. A place where those in the Endicott community feel they belong, where students choose to spend the next four years.
This is evidenced by the largest incoming freshman class in history, as well as an increased first-year retention rate from last year. Graduating Gulls have also used Endicott as a launch pad, with many (98 percent) going into full-time employment or post-graduate programs.
These numbers are a testament to Endicott’s culture and curriculum, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, where many colleges and universities saw a decrease in the number of applications, acceptance rate, and retention.
“In some ways, the challenges of the pandemic served as a magnifying glass, casting a spotlight on the ability of a college community to take care of their people,” said DiSalvo. “To stay connected. To transcend the circumstances and know, on a deep level, that this is where they belong.”
The sense of community is established in multiple ways, noted DiSalvo, such as joining an athletic team or club and working on campus. When these experiences of belonging are not created organically, they can be facilitated with shared interests.
Fostering belonging for the long run
DiSalvo also revealed that Endicott has created five Living Learning Communities (LLCs). Students with common interests will live together, centered around a theme to connect on.
Those themes include leadership; sustainability; diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; women’s empowerment; and wellness. Students will engage with faculty, residence life staff, and outside speakers, and will travel on off-campus excursions that present new perspectives on their topic of interest.
“Shared interests and shared passions are the organizing principle for the LLCs, but that’s just the beginning,” said DiSalvo. “In the end, these settings ultimately create an extraordinary sense of belonging and a rich college experience on many levels.”
The newly-renovated Center for Belonging & Inclusion is another location fostering connection and belonging. People from all backgrounds are encouraged to visit the center, take part in an array of diverse programming, and come together to find a sense of contemplation and peace—or alone if wanted.
“My thanks to every member of our Endicott community for your individual and collective efforts to make this place, this Nest, a place of welcome, a place of openness, a place where each one of us can pursue a path to being our best selves,” concluded DiSalvo.
After the Endicott Singers sang “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World, Student Government Association President Caitlyn Sievers ’23 took the stage. Sievers gave students two pieces of advice for the new school year: say good morning to professors and thank them after each class.
She then welcomed Endicott’s new provost, Dr. Sara Quay, to the podium. Quay introduced the new full-time faculty joining the College, as well as congratulated those faculty who have been promoted this year.
Associate Professor of English Dr. Sam Alexander, the 2021 Academic Excellence Award winner as well as last year’s Convocation speaker, welcomed this year’s Convocation speaker and 2022 Academic Excellence Award recipient Dr. Liz Matelski.
Matelski, an Associate Professor of History, recalled her experience going to a small liberal arts college in central Wisconsin. She noted that in order to discover what “sets you on fire”, students must get outside their comfort zone. College is where you get to make mistakes, to discover where you belong, she said.
“It’s not about doing what’s expected of you or what’s safe or what’s easy,” said Matelski. “I want you to continually challenge yourself. To do your best. To seize this opportunity with everything you’ve got.”
After the Endicott singers sang Endicott’s alma mater, Director of Belonging and Spiritual Life Gail Cantor ended the ceremony with a benediction that built on the academic year’s theme.
“As we bring this convocation ceremony to a close and officially get this school year underway, our prayer for you is that you will have the courage and the strength to be your authentic selves,” she said, “to show your true colors and to create a tapestry of belonging that empowers everyone.”
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