This year, new first-year and transfer students received an invitation to Convocation that included the definition of the ceremony: “a formal ceremony that opens the academic year.” And that it did! The campus had already been buzzing from the first four days of classes but on August 25, students, faculty, staff, and administrators, along with family and friends, formally ushered in the beginning of what hopes to be yet another successful academic year.
Joseph R. Marbach, Ph.D., University President, invoked the students to find their “why.” While their individual responses to that question may differ, they are bound by the common answer of wanting a value-based education, the type that Georgian Court University prides itself on. President Marbach highlighted the many successes of Georgian Court students and faculty, including the Faculty Focus publication that highlights nearly 200 faculty accomplishments from last year. That publication, found here on the website, featured three outstanding faculty members at Georgian Court, including Dr. Cathleen McQuillen, D.P.S.
Selected as the recipient of the Virginia Graham ’31 Award for Teaching Excellence for 2022, Dr. McQuillen provided the keynote address, first addressing the faculty. She spoke about her saying “yes” to a seemingly unfitting committee in 2013. Interacting with a cross-section of faculty and staff during her time on that committee lead to “personal connections that foster belonging.”
Dr. McQuillen addressed the students, assuring them all that they belong to the GCU community. She reminded students that they are finding their path: paths that are not roads and do not have clear signs. Dr. McQuillen assured that everyone on campus supporting them will meet them with patience to ensure their belonging.
“Your faculty, administrators, and staff are here today to celebrate the beginning of the new academic year,” Dr. McQuillen concluded. “It is a celebration, as we want to share the passion which drove us to earn terminal degrees, seek additional learning in our fields, to help you find your passion and your place of belonging in our community.”
Not only is convocation the ceremonious beginning of the academic year, but it is also an opportunity to recognize the success of students throughout the schools. Dean Mary Chinery for the School of Arts and Sciences, Dean Jennifer Edmonds for the School of Business and Digital Media, Dean Kelly McNeal for the School of Education, and Dean Teresa Wurmser for the Hackensack Meridian Health School of Nursing & Wellness all presented numerous student awards that highlighted achievement, global awareness, leadership, service, and professionalism to name a few. Dr. Joy Smith, Associate Provost for Student Support and Services also presented the Saint Catharine Medal for student achievement.
New students were led by Student Government Association Executive Board President Giayana Feliciano in a pinning ceremony, while the student body pledged to uphold the Mercy Core Values of respect, integrity, justice, compassion, and service.
Giayana introduced Kristen Cladek ’14, current Alumni Board of Directors President. Kristen works as a social worker at the Ladacin Network’s Lehmann Adult Day Program, a career to which she credits her passion for service from the Mercy Core Values.
Kristin welcomed the students and shared a similar story to Dr. McQuillen’s, one where she hesitantly said “yes” to an opportunity that would go on to guide her on her path at GCU. She encouraged students to keep going despite the uncertainty of starting something new.
“I want you all to jump in before testing the water, say “yes” to every opportunity that comes your way,” Kristin advised. “And most importantly, rise to the occasion that is your life!”
Each class is presented with a flag during Convocation that is returned to class four years later during the Commencement Ceremony and then, returned to the Alumni Association, symbolizing the class joining the thousands of men and women who are proud alumnae. This year, Kristin passed the flag to Gabrielle Madera, who accepted the flag on behalf of the Class of 2026.
Throughout the ceremony, Carly Cohen, Campus Minister, and Jeffrey Schaffer, Director of Campus Ministry, both brought blessings to the new students and faculty. Paul DaPonte, Ph.D., Executive Director of Mission Integration, spoke about the mission of the university and how new students can connect with it.
Convocation 2022 captured the spirit of Georgian Court University: a faith-based, mission-driven community filled with achievement and belonging while encouraging new students to continue the tradition of excellence, for a future of success.