Virtual convocation focuses on experiential learning, touches on community safety

George Barker, campus editor

As a semester like no other officially kicks off tomorrow, Convocation came in an atypical way as well. Students, deans and President Joseph E. Aoun delivered welcoming remarks to new Northeastern students through a recorded video played on Instagram, Facebook Live and HuskyCable, instead of live speeches traditionally delivered in Matthews Arena.

Like most years’ Convocation speeches, the university’s presentation focused primarily on experiential learning opportunities and the benefits of being a part of the Northeastern community as speakers described what incoming students have to look forward to. While the ceremony was entirely virtual due to COVID-19, there were minimal mentions of the pandemic, except for Aoun’s closing remarks emphasizing the importance of safety and wellness of the community.

The presentation began with a diverse assortment of Northeastern students, each expressing their “Northeastern dream,” which ranged from participating in global co-ops, meeting new people, learning how to solve pressing issues within their communities or pursuing a variety of careers in STEM. Each student was wearing a mask and a lanyard during their time in the video, a reminder of the pandemic’s presence in this semester. 

Dean of Cultural and Spiritual Life Robert Jose spoke next, focusing his time on how students can make the best of the Northeastern community. Jose said that “Even though this year will be different, [students] should still get involved [in the community].”

“There is so much to be gained by actively, safely and responsibly participating in life here at Northeastern,” he said. 

Jose closed his remarks with an emphasis on Northeastern’s priority of inclusivity.

“The inclusive nature of Northeastern is a mantle of pride for every Husky and from this moment on, each of you have the responsibility to add to and enhance that mosaic, which is Northeastern. As we embrace all that this means, our community will advance with greater benefit to us all,” he said.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David Madigan followed Jose, honing his remarks on what opportunities Northeastern offers its students. 

“You have arrived at one of the world’s great research universities, and you have an unparalleled opportunity to work with extraordinarily brilliant faculty and interact with one of the most talented student bodies anywhere on the planet,” he said. “This is not hyperbole. This is simply a fact.”

Deans from each of Northeastern’s colleges spoke next, giving brief descriptions of the pillars of their respective parts of the university and welcoming their incoming students. 

Lastly, two Northeastern presidents spoke, starting with Kate Kuznetsova, the undergraduate student body president. Kuznetsova emphasized that while a student’s Northeastern experience is beginning during uncertain times, “there are still a lot of opportunities and new experiences to gain.” 

Kuznetsova expressed gratitude for being able to return to campus, what students can accomplish together and the importance of meeting new people. 

“My advice for you today is to find the people and activities that make you truly happy … so that when you look back on your college experience, you’re proud of the community that you were able to build,” Kuznetsova said. 

She also said that all Northeastern students, whether at home or on campus, “are in this together.” 

“So let’s protect ourselves and the pack by following safe practices and wearing a mask,” Kuznetsova said.

Aoun closed the ceremony, discussing the principles of experiential learning, the importance of on-campus learning and the emphasis the university is placing on safety this semester. 

“You’re recognizing that in this environment, the residential model is still the best for education, and that’s why you are here,” he said, before describing Northeastern’s focus on experiential education, co-op and educating students to be “robot-proof.” 

Aoun also encouraged students, whether they have declared majors or are in the Explore Program, to find new interests during their time at Northeastern.

“I believe that every one of you, even the students who know or think they know what they want, will discover new dimensions, new passions here on this campus and throughout your journey,” he said. “This is why I encourage you to be explorers.” 

Aoun finished the presentation by discussing safety measures in place to protect the Northeastern community. 

“Wellness and safety and health of the community on each one of you is paramount. So, I’m going to ask you to take care of yourself, to take care of each other, wear your mask [and] practice safe distancing,” he said. “Yes, we’ll be able to have fun together, but we have to do it differently at a distance. We’re in it together here. Let’s take care of each other.”