Mount Holyoke welcomes incoming class of Yellow Sphinxes

Photo by Emma Chaffee ’22  For Mount Holyoke’s 181st Convocation, students filled Gettell Amphitheater as the Five College West African Music Ensemble ushered them down the stairs.

Photo by Emma Chaffee ’22

For Mount Holyoke’s 181st Convocation, students filled Gettell Amphitheater as the Five College West African Music Ensemble ushered them down the stairs.

BY MELISSA JOHNSON ’20

 The Mount Holyoke community gathered to celebrate the new academic year in Gettell Amphitheater for the College’s annual Convocation on Sept. 3. Excitement and nervousness filled the air as students proudly sported their class colors and chanted their class years.

“Honestly, Convocation [...] was the first real feeling of the greater Mount Holyoke community,” Piper Lapointe ’23. After first-years, sophomores and juniors filled the amphitheater, the senior class of 2020 were greeted with cheers from their classmates as they processed down the stairs. 

“I [was] excited to be a part of it,” Lapointe said. 

After the senior class, followed by members of faculty, filed into the amphitheater, Convocation began with a warm welcome from Mount Holyoke College Trustee Carrianna K. Field ’97. Field began her speech by welcoming the individual classes and community members of Mount Holyoke. Each class responded with a resounding cheer.

Field also extended a special welcome to the newest first-year class. “The sphinx symbolizes strength and wisdom, both qualities that you will gain in abundance here at Mount Holyoke College,” she said. 

According to Mount Holyoke’s Office of Admissions, “This year’s admitted class represents 1,025 high schools, 49 states and 42 countries.” 

Additionally, 19 percent of this year’s class are international students, 32 percent are domestic students of color and 15 percent are first-generation college students. 

This year’s class of yellow sphinxes is 509 strong; though smaller than average, the class is highly selective and new numbers reflect an effort by the Office of Admissions to compensate for an overenrolled class of 2022. At 636 students, the class of 2022 remains the largest in the College’s history. 

This year’s first-year class saw a record number of applicants, causing the acceptance rate to decrease by 15 points, from 51 to 36 percent. Mount Holyoke also rose in national rankings this year, now being listed by the Princeton Review as “among the top 20 colleges and universities in categories for academics, demographics and extracurriculars,” according to the College’s website.

Field gave advice to all Mount Holyoke students, encouraging them to slow down and embrace the many traditions that the College offers.

“Take time to unplug, sit in the Dining Commons and talk about what you are learning with your friends,” she said. “Walk around Upper Lake and see the campus as the living laboratory it is. Hike Mount Holyoke on Mountain Day and remember all of these traditions are now and forever yours. You’re MoHome.” 

Field wasn’t the only speaker to touch on themes of community. College President Sonya Stephens took the stage for her annual speech, encouraging the Mount Holyoke community to practice healthy dialogue and avoid call-out culture.

 “A Mount Holyoke education — and this community — stands for independence of thought and action,” Stephens said. “What helps us to negotiate difference here within this community is in part the associational life that this represents and makes possible, and in part a shared commitment to honor difference of every kind — and unwavering respect for identity and individual dignity.” 

Stephens also announced the new addition of a class color and mascot for Mount Holyoke’s graduate students: teal owls. 

“[Teal is] a color associated with optimism,” Stephens said. She added that the owl is meant to characterize these students’ “focus and determination.” 

Additional speakers included Associate Professor of English Suparna Roychoudhury, Staff Council Representative Ymani Francis ’16 and Senior Class Board President Olivia Vejcik ’20. 

All three of the additional speakers encouraged Mount Holyoke students to slow down the fast pace of the academic year and take time to fully enjoy everything the College has to offer. 

“We are here for the same reason you are,” Francis said. “We saw something special in Mount Holyoke and we see something special in you. This has become our MoHome, too.” 

Vejcik added her own wisdom, offering “pro-tips” for students. 

“Don’t lose sight of the fact that just as college is a place to study and prepare for the real world, it is also a place to celebrate the person you are becoming and the person you have become,” she said. 

 Convocation concluded with the singing of the alma mater and a barbeque lunch hosted by Dining Services on Skinner Green.