Community weathers the heat to welcome incoming students

Photo by Natalie Kulak '21  The class of 2019 celebrates with incoming and returning students at the annual Convocation ceremony. 

Photo by Natalie Kulak '21

The class of 2019 celebrates with incoming and returning students at the annual Convocation ceremony. 


The temperature was almost 90 degrees, but the blazing heat didn’t stop the spirited Mount Holyoke community as they celebrated the start of a new academic year at Convocation on Tuesday.

At 11:30 a.m., the Five College West African Musical Ensemble played the drums as students, staff and faculty entered the amphitheater. Shouts of “2019!” soon echoed through the crowd as the graduating class proceeded into their section sporting gowns and pops of yellow.

As the cheers dialed down, President Sonya Stephens addressed the amphitheater. “Let’s start with a warm welcome to the class of 2022,” she said. The crowd quickly began chanting “2022!” in support of the first-year class.

Stephens continued by reflecting on her own collegiate experience, describing a bilingual dictionary that was central to her studies. She then commented on how dynamic language has become, and commended the social media personalities of online dictionaries that exercise their authority to fact-check public figures with concise definitions.

“Like new dictionaries, we are advocates of truth and guardians of facts,” Stephens said.

Stephens then welcomed one of the newest additions to the Mount Holyoke Community, Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, the school’s first Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer. Sanders-McMurtry spoke about her own hesitance to accept her current position with the College and the importance of knowing when to say “yes” and “no.” She cited several activists throughout history who fought for the rights of marginalized communities, including Mount Holyoke alumna Ruth Muskrat Bronson ’25, who met with President Calvin Coolidge to advocate for indigenous rights. 

“You are what Mount Holyoke needs,” a stray voice from the crowd shouted. Sanders-McMurtry smiled.

After Sanders-McMurtry’s speech, the Convocation choir with percussive beats performed jubilantly. The crowd danced and clapped along with the vocal performance.

Professor of Latinx and Latin American Studies Vanessa Rosa then began the greetings. She opened up about her own struggle within academia as a first-generation student of color. “Only with the support of mentors, teachers and friends I was able to stumble my way through college,” she said. Rosa encouraged students to also enlist support from professors and other students. 

Staff Counsel Representative and alumna Audrey Markarian ’07 continued the greetings. She reminded students that staff are always there to help students whether they feel homesick, are struggling academically or just need a quick chat.

Finally, SGA President Adelita Simon ’19 greeted the crowd. “My first year, I was confused, indecisive, and really missed home,” she said. While she admitted she still feels the same, she also recognized her own growth. In a bilingual speech, Simon also reflected on two principles she learned from her “papa” that have continued to guide her throughout her life: “If you’re going to do a job, do it right,” and “Never forget where you come from.”

The choral ensemble led the enthusiastic crowd in the alma mater and the amphitheater erupted as people sang “Mount Holyoke forever shall be” before heading to the Convocation picnic. 

Francesca Petruzzelli ’22  and Sara Remmler ’22 were shocked by the sheer amount of energy at Convocation. Remmler said she expected “A few speeches, maybe some clapping, but definitely not like this.”  

Petruzzelli said she felt a welcoming feeling during convocation. “Everyone was just clapping for everything, everyone is here to support you.” Remmler expressed similar sentiments, adding “No detail went unmissed, no word or phrase went unmissed.”  

“My favorite part about Convocation is screaming for 2020 until I lose my voice completely,” Rebecca Piperno ’20 said. “We are such a spirited class and it makes me feel like part of a larger community, which I love.”

Thinking about the cheers, excitement and colorful costumes that take over Mount Holyoke during Convocation, Piperno said,“It’s nice being a part of something that no one else really understands unless you’re in it.”