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Convocation 2021

Read President Steinmayer’s portion of the Convocation ceremony September 9, 2021

Opening Welcome

Good morning, everyone! I’m Janet Steinmayer, Lesley’s President, and I’m excited to officially welcome you back to campus, and to Lesley’s 112th year!

Welcome to our incoming students-our first-year students – undergraduate, graduate and Threshold

Welcome to our classes of last year who are first coming to campus this fall

Welcome to our new faculty and staff and to those who started last year and are first coming to campus

Welcome to all of our returning students, faculty and staff and a special welcome to those of you who will graduate in 2022.

Convocation is like a bookend to Commencement – a pair of ceremonies that open and close the Lesley experience-and therefore holds a special meaning for those who will be graduating in 2022, in both January and May.

Order of the Speaking Program

Joining me today are some of the Lesley leaders you’ll get to know during your time as a student. You will hear shortly from: our Provost Jonathan Jefferson; our Dean of Students Nathaniel Mays; and our Vice President of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Justice Sandra St Fleur. I’m particularly grateful to have with us our student speaker Bailey Haines. As many of you know, Bailey is a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and she is our Student Government President. She is joining us today with great courage despite some personal circumstances, and Bailey we very much admire what you’re doing.


Before we start, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the traditional occupants the land that we now call Cambridge and the Lesley campus and honor what this land means to Indigenous Peoples’ culture and traditions. We welcome any aboriginal, Native American and/or First Nation people in the Lesley community.

In addition, some of you may have just celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and we wish you “Shanah Tovah.”

Finally, I would like us to take a moment to remember the victims of September 11, twenty years ago but never forgotten, the military and civilian casualties of the war in Afghanistan, and those whose lives the COVID-19 pandemic and this summer’s natural disasters have claimed.

Our Approach to Convocation Planning this Year

In planning our 2021 Convocation, we took a more inclusive and flexible approach than in prior years. This mirrors the way we are approaching our return to campus with a mix of in-person, HyFlex, hybrid, and fully remote classes. While we are using the webinar format for the speaking portions of Convocation, we will be holding outdoor receptions for first- and second-year undergraduate, Threshold and graduate students. I look forward to meeting many of you there.

As a health and safety precaution, we have limited attendance at these receptions, but there will be many other opportunities for us to meet during your time at Lesley.

I thank you all for helping us achieve a very high rate of vaccination on campus, for following our masking requirements, and for adhering to our testing protocols and the Community Compact. Some of these protocols may change, so please watch for periodic updates.

The Power of Human Connection: Lesley’s Relevance

So today I welcome you back to a university whose fields of study have never been more important.

The pandemic has reinforced how interconnected we are, and the extreme weather events experienced around the world leave no doubt that we must think, and act, globally. And global collaboration to address these challenges will no doubt require forging stronger human connections across borders and cultures.

Strengthening human connections is what a Lesley education is all about. It is why the work our professors and alumni do – and the work you will do – has never been more relevant.

The human arts, Lesley’s unique strength, help connect people to each other meaningfully and are essential to a healthy society. In challenging times, these disciplines are more relevant than ever. When systems break down, we look to the power of human connections to repair them, and Lesley graduates are among the “first responders” to our most human needs.

Whether you chose to join our community because you aspire to become a teacher, counselor, therapist, social worker, artist, writer, policy maker, business leader, scientist or entrepreneur -- or if you haven’t yet decided -- Lesley will prepare you to be a catalyst for a more connected and just world. The desire to make a positive impact on people’s lives is what drew many of you to Lesley.

Role Models in Connecting Ideas to Action

We don’t need to look very far to find examples and role models in the Lesley community who are responding to the urgent challenges we face today, from Covid to climate change to systemic racism.

  • Superstar author Jason Reynolds, who teaches in our MFA Creative Writing Program, has inspired legions of young people to love reading and history and understand racism though his extraordinary ability to connect his experiences with those of younger readers.
  • If you visit the Prudential Center in Boston, you will walk beneath a soaring public art installation by LA+D alumna Cicely Carew ’20 (MFA Visual Arts), which aims to inspire feelings of joy and connectedness.
  • Dr. Uma Chandrika Millner, an assistant professor of psychology, connected with healthcare workers treating Covid patients in Nepal and India through a free mental health support program that she co-created.
  • The work of Sydney Chaffee ’07, who was named Teacher of the Year in both Massachusetts and the United States in 2017, was captured on WBUR as she helped her 9th grade students at Codman Academy place the events of January 6th in the historical context of white supremacy.
  • Lesley students and faculty have been volunteering as citizen scientists at Mount Auburn Cemetery documenting the impact of humans on urban ecosystems and teaching hundreds of visitors of all ages about preserving biodiversity and the natural habitat.
  • And tomorrow, Dr. Lisa Fiore, the Chair of our Education Department in CLAS, will share her expertise with parents of younger children as part of a Boston Globe panel on what families need to know about the Delta variant as schools reopen.

These are just a few examples of the many ways members of the Lesley community connect and share what they teach and learn to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives.

You are now part of, and will be the next standard bearers in, applying and sharing what you learn and experience at Lesley to improve your future communities, wherever you land. I know you are up to the challenge, and our campus and alumni community will be here to encourage and support you along the way.

And as we traverse this year, when inevitably there are, and will be, challenges-in how we and others are affected by the pandemic, in doing the work we must do to address racism, in confronting climate change, recall that the root of the arts we practice at Lesley lie in the art of connecting: connecting ideas, connecting people, connecting to the world to make it a better place. And while we would wish that the world was not quite as challenging as it is just now, let’s use this as our opportunity to build the skills of connection to be sure this complicated year is the best it can be.


So, in this year, as we navigate the inevitable ups and downs of these challenges, I encourage you to be the authors of hope, the people who do the hard work to face these challenges with and for each other. This is Lesley. You are part of this community because it takes on these challenges. Let’s help each other to see how we push forward with flexibility, empathy and grace. I look forward to seeing how you will meet the challenges of today and to all you will achieve and bring forward into your life’s work.

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce our Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Jonathan K. Jefferson.