Class of 2024 Convocation Remarks

Good Morning Class of 2024! My name is Kate Morris, and since July 1, just under two months, I have served as President here at St. Lawrence University.

Sophomores, because you missed out on some of our usual new student orientation activities last year, we’re offering the Sophomore Rewind program to make sure you can be involved in those activities this year—including today’s convocation, lunch at MacAllaster House this afternoon, and the candlelight experience this evening. We hope that you and your classmates enjoy these opportunities to re-connect with campus as you enter your second year at St. Lawrence.

First, let me say how genuinely excited I am to be here, and how excited I am to meet you. I had the opportunity to meet some of your class during July—after I arrived on campus for my first day on the job and before the end of summer session. I learned from those students about some of the challenges your class faced last year, as well as your hopes for this year.

Frankly, sophomore year can be a challenging time, even without a pandemic environment. I distinctly remember returning for my sophomore year of college with a great sense of unease. Would the friendships I created during my first year have survived the summer apart? For me, this concern was exacerbated by the fact that I was from much farther away than everyone else—and they had all seen each other over the summer. Would they all be close friends and would I get shut out? Would I still like the academic program that I intended to pursue? After all, I had that one bad experience second semester of first year. Was I a fish out of water going to college in a part of the country I wasn’t from? Could I find some things to get involved in, given that I didn’t really find my “thing” my first year.

And that was all not even in the context of a global pandemic. We all know that your class has probably gotten the shortest end of the stick of any group of young people when it comes to the pandemic, between losing so much as high school seniors and having such a strange first year of college.

But I have faith in you. In fact, there is probably no other group of young people who are best situated to lead our university, community, state, nation, and world into the future than your class. You have experienced firsthand the profound consequences of our lack of a cohesive, integrated, and consensus-based approach to solving global, national, and local problems. You have seen what happens when governments fight with each other rather than work together. What happens when our politicians make important matters of public health political rather than matters of science. What happens when political parties are so divided that they would rather oppose anything the other does than find progress together.

Our country and our world cannot sustain much more of this. We need you. We need those of you who experienced the profound and challenging consequences of a global pandemic, of global unrest, of misuse of power to the harm of those most oppressed. We need to you join us in leading where those in my own generation and other generations of adults have struggled to lead. We need you to bring new and creative solutions to big problems. And we don’t need you to do this alone—we just need you to partner with those of us in older generations to balance out our blind spots because we haven’t had the same experiences that you have had as young adults.

And frankly, the most important thing I can do with my career at this point, is to be heavily invested in you, as students, as future leaders. While this is true for all students, it is especially true for you as sophomores.

When I look back at my own experience sophomore year, what do I wish somebody had told me then?

  • Be patient with yourself. You will figure it out. It will be okay. Your friends will be there for you and you will make new friends.
  • You will find your academic passion, and that might mean taking a class that is outside your comfort zone, so go for it.
  • You will figure out the clubs to join, the on campus job to get, and the connections with faculty to truly complement your in class learning experiences.
  • And more than anything, I wish I had heard that the adults around me believed in me. That they knew I would someday be a leader, even if I didn’t yet see it in myself.

As such, I am here today to be the voice I so desperately needed to hear when I was in your shoes. To let you know that we know it’s been a challenging time. We want you to succeed. We are here to support you. We know you can do it. And we need you to do it.

I wish you all the best as you begin your sophomore year, look forward to meeting each one of you, and look forward to greeting you for lunch at MacAllaster House shortly.

Thank you.

Kathryn A. Morris, St. Lawrence University President
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Gunnison Memorial Chapel