Earning a college degree and having the opportunity to engage in academic pursuits carry an important responsibility, Johann M. Vento, Ph.D., told students, faculty members, and families at Georgian Court University’s August 29 Convocation Ceremony. The GCU professor of theology/religious studies was one of several speakers at the annual event marking the start of a new academic year.
“Since the recent death of the illustrious American novelist Toni Morrison, a quote of hers has been circulating around social media,” Dr. Vento said as she repeated Ms. Morrison’s directive to students.
“She says, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’”
Dr. Vento’s insight was shared as GCU faculty, staff, and alumni formally welcomed the university’s newest students. The Class of 2023, including students from as far away as New Zealand, France, and Tunisia, began their studies at GCU on August 26.
“I invite all of us here—as we seize the opportunity to study, as we claim for ourselves the intellectual and spiritual riches that come from nurturing the life of the mind and of being formed in our chosen profession—to remember that all this is not an individual pursuit,” said Dr. Vento. “I can’t just grab all this for myself so that my life goes well for me.”
The veteran GCU faculty member, who drew a standing ovation, was named the 2019 recipient of the Virginia Graham ’31 Award for Teaching Excellence in May. It is the university’s highest honor for faculty members.
Start with Why
GCU President Joseph R. Marbach, Ph.D., also gave new students something to think about—why they are in college in the first place, and why they chose Georgian Court.
“Why are you here? There are easily hundreds of answers you might offer, but it comes down to this,” he said. “You are here to get the best education possible to prepare you for the rest of your lives. You have a responsibility to yourselves, your family, and the community to demand a high-quality education.”
Dr. Marbach also emphasized the importance of their education at a Mercy institution (GCU is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy), and the university’s commitment to student formation.
In addition to new first-year and transfer students, Convocation was attended by high-achieving sophomores, juniors, and seniors who excelled academically last year. They were recognized with special awards during the ceremony.
Faculty Make the Difference
The work of faculty members is critical to their success, as GCU Interim Provost Janice Warner, Ph.D., mentioned in Faculty Focus 2019, the annual publication that highlights the extraordinary scholarship and creative work of faculty during the past academic year.
The publication features:
- Dr. Vento, who also serves as interim chair of the Department of Religious Studies, Theology, and Philosophy;
- Jo Ann F. Cummings, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing;
- Cassandra Lo, Ed.D., assistant professor of education and director of the GCU School of Education Pre-Education Program; and
- Lindiwe Magaya, Ph.D., associate professor of education
“Active scholarship supports excellent teaching,” Dr. Warner wrote in the foreword. She added that Faculty Focus includes more than 200 examples of faculty members’ books, journal articles, conference presentations, grants, and art exhibitions. “At Georgian Court University, we take pride in our faculty who remain current in their fields and continue to develop their expertise,” said Dr. Warner. “It is this sense of dedication that benefits students in the classroom and reinforces GCU’s commitment to creating an exceptional student experience.”
To view more photos from the event, visit our Georgian Court University Convocation photo album. Photos by Russ DeSantis.