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NewsSep 8, 2022

Encouraging, advising and celebrating

2022 Convocation marks the first in-person official academic year kickoff in three years

Students smile - sitting around a table outside at convocation
New students enjoy lunch on the South Campus lawn after Convocation.

For the first time in three years, emerging from the pandemic, Lesley first-year undergraduate students, transfers, new graduate students and new students in our Threshold Program gathered to officially kick-off the academic year.

The mood of Convocation 2022 was immediately celebratory, as students and administrators processed into Cambridge’s First Church to the recorded sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.” Then, the ceremony got under way in signature Lesley fashion, with a calming, mindfulness exercise led by alumna and new faculty member Yasemin Isler.

Once the audience of more than 200 students, faculty and staff were focused, Provost Jonathan K. Jefferson urged the newest members of the Lesley community to be mindful of the time they will be at the university.

“This is a journey of 155 weeks: that’s all the time you’ll spend in the next four years at Lesley,” Jefferson intoned. “You are going to think time is going slow, but time is going to pass you by.”

He urged students to “take advantage of the full college experience,” advice reflected by graduate school featured speaker Yaya Cofield and undergraduate speaker Jocelyn Martinez, looking back on her arrival at Lesley three years ago.

Young woman speaking at front of church at convocation
Undergraduate speaker Jocelyn Martinez addresses students at Convocation 2022.

“This is a clean slate. You are not in high school anymore,” said Martinez, Undergraduate Student Government president. “You are free to be anyone you want to be. Just be sure the change is for the better.”

And Cofield offered a simple word of encouragement: “You got this!”

Independence and cheesecake

President Janet L. Steinmayer drew parallels between tennis legend Serena Williams, who is retiring as a player, and the students beginning their university careers. The president noted that one could see the sports superstar “struggle as she transitioned into the next stage of her career,” but doing so valiantly. Similarly, the new Lesley student might struggle with the transition from home life and high school to the university experience. But, as Williams refers to her retirement as an “evolution,” students are evolving into a new experience of growth and discovery.

“You, too, are on the brink of a new chapter in your lives,” President Steinmayer said, adding that independence should be balanced with the humility to ask for help, even from home.

The president spoke about her own journey to college, with she and her mother “packing all of my worldly possessions into a VW Bug.”

Nathaniel Mays speaks at 2022 convocation
Dean Nathaniel Mays tells students to "lean into discomfort and have fun."

Steinmayer’s mother also helped her out with care packages and cheesecake, until one day when she decided that such gifts were hardly befitting an adult academic. Her mother complied and, before long, Steinmayer realized her grave error.

“Never reject the cheesecake!” the president joked.

The president then invoked Lesley’s motto, “I would have perished had I not persisted,” and underscored the importance of perseverance in the pursuit of goals.

“Persist,” she said. “That’s how you go on to make a positive impact on others.”

Dean of Students Nathaniel Mays shared some words of wisdom from his 19-year-old, who advised him to keep his remarks brief.

“Say only what you need to say,” Mays quoted. “Don’t try to be funny. If you really want them to speak to you, after this event is over, if you really want them to speak to you when they see you on campus, don’t speak too long.”

He heeded the advice as he urged students to get to know people with differing opinions, “dare to lean into discomfort and have fun.”