On August 30, 2021, students, faculty and staff gathered in front of screens across campus to watch the Convocation ceremony that ushered in the 2021-2022 academic year—held virtually out of an abundance of caution.
A recording of the full ceremony is available online; here are some highlights to look out for:
1. Sophomore poet Tejashree Jadhav read “One Thousand Five Hundred Whitties.”
Awarded second place in the America’s Best College Poet competition during the first semester of her first year at Whitman, Tejashree Jadhav kicked off the first semester of her sophomore year by reading a poem to the college community. In it, she shared the excitement and trepidation she’s felt as a first-generation college student far from her western India home and reminded her classmates that while the convocation ceremony is repeated year after year, the Whitman experience changes with every new student.
2. ASWC president Salma Anguiano said “Change is Necessary”—and it starts from within.
As president of the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC), Salma Anguiano hopes to use her position to help bring about change for the better. In her address “Change is Necessary,” the senior politics and Chinese major spoke about a personal transformation and how it made her better equipped to lead. “The world is full of people, and we all have roadblocks holding us back from being the best we can be. … If we are willing to be honest with ourselves on how we can better ourselves, we can all contribute to the change we wish to see in the world,” she said.
3. Physics Professor Kurt Hoffmann introduced “Climate Reckonings, Climate Justice.”
The leader of this year’s Academic Theme committee pointed out the significant impact recent Whitman alums have made in elevating the issue of climate justice to the forefront of climate discussions at Whitman, and said he hoped today’s students would continue to do so. “…We hope you take up the mantle of your predecessors to continue pushing yourselves and Whitman to continue growing and improving on climate issues.”
4. Lauren Osborne, associate professor of religion, reminded us to take a “Breath.”
Convocation speaker Lauren Osborne’s speech “Breath” explored the use of the term ruah— translated as breath, spirit or wind—in the sacred texts of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and the significance of breath in all of our lives.
“Breath is connection, disconnection, life, identity and power. Be open to it. Be careful with it,” Osborn urged. “Let the books you read, and the stories and perspectives that you engage here change you. Revise your points of view. Keep growing as you encounter more and more others. And don’t ever stop doing that.”
5. Senior Leisha Casimiro and Jackie Wood, senior lecturer of music, performed from the heart.
The event’s speeches were punctuated with musical interludes by mezzo-soprano Leisha Casimiro accompanied by Jackie Wood on the piano. After the duo’s second performance—a beautiful rendition of Gwyneth Walker’s “Let the Life I’ve Lived Speak for Me”—President Kathy Murray took her position at the podium to declare Whitman College officially open for the 140th academic year.