Georgian Court University’s Convocation Ceremony certainly looked different this year. The event—held outside and social distanced with participants wearing masks—formally opened the academic year, welcoming the university’s newest students and honoring last year’s high-achieving students with special awards. About 150 students and 40 faculty, staff, and administration convened on GCU’s practice soccer field for the ceremony, and for the first time ever, nearly 175 students and other guests attended virtually via a live stream.
Provost Janice Warner, Ph.D., acknowledged the unique circumstance and reminded students that in choosing Georgian Court, they had “chosen a community where relationships matter. This year, they matter even more as we spend time apart and mostly interact virtually.” She advised them to “make the effort and resolve to get to know your faculty, your advisors, and the staff—talk to them about your ambitions, find out about their career paths, and find opportunities to work on research, participate in events and activities, gain experience, and engage in the community.”
Joseph R. Marbach, Ph.D., GCU president, reminded students that it was their responsibility to “know what is expected from you to excel in the classroom and to make steady progress toward achieving your degree.” He urged them to “be serious” about their studies, but to “remain open to new experiences and opportunities.”
President Marbach also reaffirmed Provost Warner’s emphasis on faculty as resources, noting that “the faculty are the chief stewards in ensuring and maintaining our high academic standards. As our student award winners can attest, the teacher-scholars assembled today have served as instructors, mentors, and guides in their academic journeys.”
Being “Other” in the Academy
Among those teacher-scholars was Kathryn Quinn-Sánchez, Ph.D., professor of world languages (Spanish) and cultures, chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures, and chair of the Faculty Assembly. In May, she was awarded the Virginia Graham ’31 Award for Teaching Excellence. The award, nominated by her peers, goes to a faculty member who demonstrates outstanding leadership, teaching, and mentoring skills and a strong commitment to inspiring and helping students. As this year’s award recipient, she delivered the Convocation address, speaking about what it is like being “other” in academia.
Dr. Quinn-Sánchez’s speech offered a timely examination of what it is like being “other” under the theme of social justice, which is central to her scholarship.
“That which is ‘othered’ is considered and normalized to be inferior,” she noted. “Those with power view their social location as an exclusive club; therefore, as the gatekeepers of knowledge, historically they see themselves much in the same way they see race, gender, or social class—as an identity marker that distinguishes and isolates one group from another.
“New ideas threaten established knowledge,” added Dr. Quinn-Sánchez. “They raise questions about central, social values because thoughts have the power to destabilize and overturn social hierarchies,” she added, noting that “racial, gender, and social class divisions must be dismantled for inclusivity to occur.”
Dr. Quinn-Sánchez’s advice to students:
“Think of how you can embody social justice by calling out abuses in our society and asking difficult questions of yourself and those around you. It is only through learning—and sometimes unlearning—that we will gain a truly just society that embodies our values.”
To view the video, photos, and program from the event, visit our Convocation page. Photos by Russ DeSantis.