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Speakers emphasize resilience, seizing opportunities in first-ever virtual convocation

Students and faculty gathered remotely Monday for the college’s first-ever virtual convocation ceremony, where speakers offered different pieces of advice centered around resilience and making the most of the college experience.

The ceremony was a mix of some new and some old.

Faculty and administration members still wore their traditional regalia — but this time, sporting Westminster College face masks. Speakers still gathered to address students, but from a televised video stream rather than to a live audience.

The Class of 2024 spread across campus in separate classrooms and lecture halls to watch the speeches, all while maintaining a six-foot distance between each other.

“Convocation is a coming together,” President Beth Dobkin told the first-year cohort. “A gathering of shared commitment in your pursuit of a degree and a demonstration of support for you, which signifies the level of importance that comes with the beginning of college life.”

Convocation is the opposite bookend of commencement, officially marking the beginning of one’s college career.

Westminster has been preparing for the Fall semester since its announcement it would return to in-person classes — welcoming students back for the first time after the COVID-19 outbreak in mid-March.

“This is a fall like no other with constant inquisition coming after a spring and summer of lockdowns, illness, isolation, protests and travel restrictions,” Dobkin said. “The decision to be here may have been difficult for you. Or you may have not had a second thought about it. You had many choices.”

This comes after a summer of an expected drop in college enrollment, with some studies predicting a 5-20% drop for the Fall semester — hitting private schools especially hard.

It’s not yet clear how Westminster’s enrollment was impacted, as those numbers are finalized later in the semester.

Although “fewer than ever” high school graduates are heading to the classroom this fall, Dobkin said, the degree they’ll earn is “priceless.”

“You’re here, on your way to achieving a collegiate degree in a very special place,” she said. “You’re now a Griffin.”

Convocation featured a line-up of several speakers — including ASW President Obaid Barakzai, Provost Debbie Tahmassebi and Vice President of Enrollment Management Erica Johnson.

All had a similar message: Take advantage of the opportunities ahead. In a time of unpredictability, the speakers urged first-year students to make use of the resources available on campus.

The Class of 2024 represents 26 states and five foreign countries, according to Johnson. Their average GPA is a 3.58 and their test scores secure them a spot in the top 25% of the country.

As they move forward, Johnson told incoming students to create a community on campus in order to change the future.

“You offer much more than college statistics,” she said.


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Cami Mondeaux is a senior communication major with a minor in sociology. She’s worked in journalism for three years completing several internships in radio as well as a print internship stationed in Washington, D.C. Now, Cami works as a reporter and digital content producer for KSL NewsRadio covering breaking news and local government. When she doesn’t have her nose stuck in the headlines, Cami enjoys listening to podcasts, drinking iced coffee and continuing her quest to find the tastiest burrito in Salt Lake City.

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