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Academic Opening Convocation held in uniquely ‘Stephens way’

September 1, 2017

Stephens College decided to do Academic Opening Convocation the “Stephens way” this year.

Instead of bringing in an outside speaker, Stephens turned to its own faculty and student leaders to address the campus-wide gathering and mark the start of the academic year.

After all, who better to talk about what it means to be a member of the Stephens community and a part of all its traditions than the people who call it home?

“Stephens is not a typical academic community, and this is not your typical academic convocation,” said Dr. Leslie Willey, vice president for academic affairs and a Stephens alumna. “We like to do things our way.”

Speakers addressed six questions critical to the Stephens experience: What makes Stephens Stephens? What are the Ten Ideals? What does it mean to be an intellectual? What does it mean to be a leader? What does it mean to attend a women’s college? What does it mean to be a member of the Stephens community?

“We decided we could tell the story about why Stephens is so important and life-changing better ourselves,” Willey said.

This isn’t the first time Stephens has blazed the trail of a new tradition.

About five years ago, the College decided to do away with an outside speaker for commencement and established the senior video, a sort of home movie starring graduating seniors, faculty and staff talking about what Stephens has meant to them and their hopes for the future.

Dr. Dianne Lynch, president of Stephens, said the senior video tradition has become the part of commencement that graduates cherish the most.

“We’re big on traditions here,” she said. “They’re the threads that bind us.”

During the convocation Stephens Faculty Chair Kirsty Buchanan, an associate professor in the School of Design and an alumna, told students that much of what makes Stephens Stephens is the lifelong friendships they will make and the indispensable connections with faculty.

Dr. Tegan Zimmerman, an assistant professor in English/creative writing, explained that being an intellectual is understanding that “there is always another side” to an issue and being open to it.

“I hope during your time at Stephens, you won’t willfully block out the other side,” she said.

Elissa Fochtman ’19, president of the Student Government Association, encouraged students to take risks and do what they don’t think they can do while at Stephens. 

“Dream up is a promise to reach our full potential at Stephens,” she said. 

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