“To Gather, to Connect, to Love”: Hollins Opens the 2021-22 Academic Year

Opening Convo Procession 2021

Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton asked students, faculty, and staff to “look out for one another, to support one another, to lift one another” during the university’s 2021-22 Opening Convocation on August 31 in duPont Chapel.

The annual ceremony represents the official launch of a new academic year. New students are welcomed into the campus community and seniors process in their graduation robes for the first time.

In her address, Hinton invited the audience to consider this year’s convocation as “a community embarking on a journey together. Even more, I ask that you hold your in your mind and heart the vision of us as a community fueled by love. A love that binds us one to the other; a love that binds us to learning and to the liberal arts; and a love that binds us to this community of our beloved Hollins.”

Hinton noted that the daily routine on a college campus can sometimes be frenetic. Nevertheless, she encouraged students, faculty, and staff to “go above and beyond, that we take a moment to see the humanity that each one of us brings to this endeavor. I ask that we take the time to see the individual complexities and marvelous beauty we each bring. I ask that we recognize Hollins would simply not be the same without each and every one of us. When we talk of students, faculty, staff, and administration, we’re talking of a collection of beating human hearts. I ask that we see our hearts, and that we choose to extend compassion, grace, and care to each person we encounter. That when we are faced with a variety of ways to reach out and engage one with the other, that we choose to do so with love.”

Calling it her “favorite essay,” Hinton cited William Cronon’s “‘Only Connect…’: The Goals of a Liberal Education,”  for the way it “explains the beauty and the demands of the type of education we are so fortunate to experience here at Hollins.” She shared the ten attributes that Cronon argues are typical of those educated in the liberal arts tradition:

They listen and they hear.

They read and they understand.

They can talk with anyone.

They can write clearly and persuasively and movingly.

They can solve a wide variety of puzzles and problems.

They respect rigor, not so much for its own sake, but as a way of seeking truth.

They practice humility, tolerance, and self-criticism.

They understand how to get things done in the world.

They nurture and empower the people around them.

“I believe with my whole heart that we exemplify those traits,” Hinton said. “This is what we do, and it’s who we are at our core.”

Hinton Opening Convo
President Hinton: “In the end, it is love that matters most.”

Hinton concluded her remarks by asking that “love, care, and connection be the fuel that powers our community as a whole. Because in the end, it is love that matters most. You see, when we choose to see one another’s humanity, when we choose to see the purpose of our work and the liberal arts as connecting, it leaves us no choice in the end but to work daily to become a beloved community.”

She added that her most fervent hope for Hollins is “for each of us individually, and all of us collectively, to work toward goodwill for all. This will be daily work, difficult work, enduring work. But it is the work that we, a community fueled by love, can uniquely undertake. As we launch this academic year, I ask that we choose not only to gather, but that we choose to connect, and most of all, that we choose to love.”

Student Government Association Vice President Jaiya McMillan ’23 urged her fellow students in her remarks to “indulge in every second of our lives and greet each day knowing the only definite is change,” but to also understand their personal life experiences transcend upheaval in the nation and the world.

“To grow into ourselves and understand what this new state of being is, isn’t just change. To realize something deeper and more profound about the world around us feels radical and new, and to me, feels like magic. It’s not just change but a transformation, and I believe that this lifelong cycle is only amplified by the metamorphosis that we each undergo at Hollins. You may not know it yet, but to be in college is to transform. Your way of thinking, your breadth of knowledge, and your relationships grow.”

McMillan acknowledged that the thought of becoming “a different person when you leave Hollins may be terrifying,” but added reassurance that “your essence, the core of who you are, will never change.” Rather, “You come out of this university empowered to show the world who you truly are.”

Following Opening Convocation, Hollins’ class of 2022 took part in the traditional First Step ceremony on the university’s historic Front Quadrangle. Each year, seniors line the sidewalks of Front Quad dressed in robes they creatively design themselves. Bearing bottles of cider specially decorated for the occasion, they take their symbolic first steps onto the grass.

Top photo: Hollins seniors processing in their graduation robes for the first time is one of the highlights of Opening Convocation.