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NewsSep 8, 2023

Celebrating Lesley’s newest community members

Convocation 2023 was abundant in excitement and encouragement for graduate, undergraduate, transfer and Threshold students

nathaniel mays speaking at first church for Convocation 2023
Dean of Student Life Nathaniel Mays speaks to students and other attendees of Convocation 2023, held in First Church of Cambridge. (Photos by Ben Zackin)

By John Sullivan

And … we’re back!

Members of the undergraduate Class of ’27, our newest graduate and transfer students and Threshold students gathered in First Parish Church on Thursday to officially kick off their Lesley careers.

As students, faculty and staff filed into the elegant yet homey church building for Convocation, classic popular music titles from Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” to Bill Withers’s “Lovely Day” to Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” played over the building’s sound system.

And it was clear, from the outset of Interim Provost Deanna Yameen’s introductory remarks throughout the 45-minute ceremony, the feeling was one of joyous excitement and anticipation for the new academic year.

“We’re excited that you joined us,” Yameen said. “Thank you for being here and being part of our community.”

Deanna Yameen speaks at Convocation 2023 inside church building
Acting Provost Deanna Yameen addresses students, faculty and staff at Convocation 2023.

The acting provost briefly surrendered the microphone to Mindfulness Studies faculty member Yasemin Isler, who guided attendees in the humid church to imagine themselves at the beach, “somewhere nice and cool.”

“This is about giving some presence to the moment,” Isler said in a soothing voice not much louder than a whisper, “being aware of this exciting moment.”

When Yameen returned to the microphone, she spoke about the need for students to reach out to others for help when they say to themselves, as was the custom in her family, “I’m stuck!”

“We all get stuck,” Yameen said. “If you are stuck in any way, shape or form … there are multiple wonderful individuals whose job it is to help you.”

She repeatedly reassured and encouraged students who might feel anxious or out of place in their new academic home, especially when “everybody else” appears so confident.

“Sometimes when we get stuck, we feel like the only ones,” Yameen said. “Don’t compare your insides with anyone else’s outsides.”

President Janet L. Steinmayer followed Yameen, buttressing the spirit of encouragement via the definition of the word “convocation.”

“Coming together as a community where everyone is honored and belongs,” the president said, urging students to reflect on how they arrived at Lesley, and ponder the kind of people they hope to become.

President Janet L. Steinmayer at podium, wearing academic regalia
President Janet L. Steinmayer welcomes the newest members of the Lesley community, honoring them at Convocation 2023.

She then introduced the ceremony’s graduate student speaker, Lital Dotan, who recalled her first visit to Lesley for a workshop, prior to her enrolling in our Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences.

“What I do recall is the amount of passion that was felt around me,” she said, reflection on the camaraderie she experienced.

Yet, like any new student, it took some time to adjust.

“Your best support will come from the people who are going through the same trials and tribulations,” she said, reflecting Yameen’s advice to reach out.

Undergraduate student speaker Luis Zapata Ortiz had some advice of his own:

“Get involved as much as you can.”

Dean of Student Life Nathaniel Mays then invited the newest Lesley community members, and all attendees, to lunch on the South Campus Lawn.

And, with that, the 2023-24 academic year is under way.