This year’s Convocation was so much more than pomp and circumstance and platitudes about studying hard or nabbing that perfect internship. Instead, the message for first-year students was about going deep and getting a bit, well, vulnerable.
“Growing up, I always felt like I stuck out, didn’t really feel like I fully belonged—no matter where I was,” shared Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Brandi Johnson during the annual ceremony that welcomes the Class of 2027 to life at the Nest and heralds a new academic year.
“I am bi-racial, my mom is white and my dad is Black. They got divorced when I was a toddler and when I was five, my mom remarried an amazing man who just so happened to also be white and they had my twin brothers. I was consistently asked if I was adopted and not only was I harassed, but my brothers were harassed too.”
Johnson said she grew up explaining to people that she and her siblings were blood-related while enduring name-calling from peers. When she got to college, she said, “I finally became comfortable in my skin. I started to wear my hair however I wanted and use my voice fully to fight injustices. I finally felt like I had the opportunity to fully embrace who I was and ignore the people who didn’t think I was enough.”
Stories like Johnson’s have the power to change lives, unite people, broaden perspectives, and heal—if only we share them. That’s why, said President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D., “Share Your Story” is the theme for the 2023–24 academic year.
“Each year, we choose a theme based on what we see happening in the world and also what we think will inspire and invigorate our community,” he explained. “Through stories, we break down barriers. We normalize experiences and perspectives that aren’t our own or don’t fit into our neat way of thinking.”
DiSalvo himself divulged that he may look comfortable in front of the camera in the popular video updates he shares with the community but, behind the scenes, he is pushing past his comfort zone.
“Taking a chance—putting myself out there in a way that people don’t expect from me—and pushing through the fear is scary but it’s also part of life,” he said.
In a day that was all about new chapters, the College’s story took also an exciting turn at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Cummings School of Nursing & Health Sciences earlier in the day.
The building was completed over the summer along with a refresh of the Diane M. Halle Library; installation of wayfinding signage; new turf, scoreboard, and locker rooms at Hempstead Stadium; an expanded fitness center; and a new dance studio.
“This is a new chapter in our story and our story will continue to evolve with every passing year,” said DiSalvo, as the Endicott Singers stepped up to perform a rousing rendition of the Sister Sledge classic “We Are Family,” which drew cheers from the packed MacDonald Gymnasium.
After, incoming Student Government Association President Kelly McKaig ’24 offered a few words. McKaig, a graphic design major, acknowledged that the first-year experience may seem daunting and riddled with anxiety, but “every one of you is beginning this journey not alone but rather together.”
McKaig reflected on the challenges of transitioning to college life during a worldwide pandemic. “How I dealt with the unexpected helped shape me into the person I am today,” she said, and offered three suggestions:
- Expect to change while at Endicott.
- Use times of adversity to further your personal development.
- Work through challenges to create opportunities to build resilience.
“These strategies will allow you to make the best version of yourself and how that may relate to your place in our community. You are the writer of your own story. While the future can not be predicted, how you react in the present can create your next chapter,” she said.
For Endicott faculty, many either opened a new chapter as a recent hire or saw a continuation of their story at the Nest with a promotion, as announced by Provost Sara Quay.
“Students, the Endicott faculty are your professors, your advisors, your mentors. They are the heart of the academic community and they will challenge, inspire, and support you. They are there for you and are partners in shaping your story here at Endicott,” Quay said. “Connect with them, know they believe in you, do your work, and you will succeed.”
Convocation speaker and 2023 Academic Excellence Award winner Amy Damico encouraged students to also get out of their comfort zones—by leaving.
“Or more specifically, leave campus, explore, and share your experience when you come back,” said the Professor of Communication. “I’m sure you’ve heard about studying abroad or studying away. Students who study abroad gain new perspectives, broader understandings of other cultures, and become more informed global citizens. They also often gain self-confidence, more independence, and increased abilities to adapt to changing situations. These are opportunities to seriously consider.”
But, she said, students can always be curious tourists in their own city—or go to Boston. Gloucester. Crane Beach in Ipswich. Do something different.
And then when students land back at the Nest, they’ll have a new story to tell.There is a myriad of ways to share your story this year! Get involved in Endicott’s social media with the Gull Creator Program or submit your own unique story here. Are you an alum? We also want to hear your story! You could be contacted for a follow-up feature.