President Morris reflects on one of our proudest days on campus–Commencement.
On May 21, we gathered to celebrate our graduates as St. Lawrence’s newest alumni. They are an impressive group who demonstrated a spirit of adventure, found strength and inspiration in community, and persevered through challenges to find their passions. Despite the difficulties posed by a global pandemic that began during their first year on campus, they immersed themselves in all that St. Lawrence offers to prepare them for success after college.
Let me share some highlights about the Class of 2023, which I shared with the graduates during their Commencement exercises.
The most popular programs of study among this year’s graduates include business in the liberal arts, psychology, economics, government, and performance and communication arts. Nearly a third of our graduates pursued more than one major and more than half declared one or more minors.
Some even completed a triple major. Nathan Turtledove, for example, graduated with a triple major in business in the liberal arts, government, and economics. He served as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee president, the Jewish Student Union president, a music columnist for The Hill News, and as tennis team captain. This summer, he was at the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business Bridge Program, and in June he was selected as the winner of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s 2023 prestigious Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award as endowed by Billie Jean King.
Like Nathan, members of the Class of 2023 followed their academic interests, and often discovered new ones, with the guidance of faculty mentors. Students reported to us that their collaborations with professors were highlights of their St. Lawrence experience.
Perhaps one of the best-known recent student-faculty collaborations is the one starring the turtle-tracking dog named Newt. Julia Sirois, a conservation biology major, received a research fellowship to support her work during the summer of 2022 with biology professor Kristine Hoffmann. Together, they trained Newt to sniff out turtles across Rhode Island as part of a conservation project designed to preserve endangered species. Julia’s work with Dr. Hoffmann and Newt made national headlines, with an extended feature in People Magazine.
Of the 145 seniors who were varsity athletes, 100 received either Conference All-Academic or All-Conference honors. And eight of these student-athletes earned All-American honors. Athletes from the Class of 2023 played on several league or regional title-winning teams, including riding, men’s hockey, men’s soccer, women’s cross country, women’s squash, men’s basketball, and men’s rowing.
The pandemic foiled some study abroad plans, but nearly a third of the Class of 2023 were still able to pursue off-campus study at our signature programs in the heart of the Adirondacks, in New York City, in Kenya, in London, and at partner programs around the world, and these experiences shaped their goals for leading lives of impact after graduation.
I first met Maddy Mercier when I visited the Kenya Semester Program, where she studied in the spring of 2022. While there, she interned for the Flone Initiative, a women-led organization working towards the creation of safe, sustainable, and accessible public transportation spaces for women and vulnerable groups in Africa. Maddy is among the first generation in her family to graduate from college (see cover story on page 16), and this summer, she interned for the Brookings Institution doing policy research for its African Security Initiative project before attending Utrecht University in the Netherlands to pursue a master’s degree in Conflict Studies and Human Rights.
Many members of the Class of 2023 made important connections with our mighty St. Lawrence alumni network. Over 150 completed the formal year-long LINC alumni mentoring program, while many more had the benefit of informal meetings with alumni in a wide range of career fields. And we estimate that over 200 participated in organized events including both virtual and in-person SLU Connect programs in cities around the country, including Burlington, Boston, and San Francisco. Through these programs, alumni generously offered advice, business cards, and leads for jobs and internships.
Individually and as a class, members of the Class of 2023 are ready to take on the future, whether entering the workforce, attending graduate or professional school, or entering a service program. Each of our graduates is prepared to make their own Laurentian Impact on the world. I am so proud of them. I am even more proud of—and grateful to—all of you, our alumni, faculty, families, and staff who were there every step of the way, teaching, mentoring, supporting, and cheering them on. Congratulations to us all.