Almost 4,000 people gathered under and around the festive white tent on the front lawn of our campus to witness the final Commencement ceremony of Saint Joseph College. Included among the 662 graduates were 125 members of the first cohort of teachers who had earned master’s degrees at our off-campus locations across Connecticut. More than one-third of those graduating were first in their family to receive a college degree or a graduate degree; several undergraduate students had distinguished themselves in state-wide examinations and competitions.
The students listened attentively to Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s inspirational message as Commencement speaker, but their warmest applause was for Sister Mary Ellen Murphy ’50, Ph.D., who received an honorary degree for her pioneering career in science.
At this, our final commencement before becoming University of Saint Joseph, trustees, faculty, and family members alike were filled with pride at the accomplishments of our graduates and our institution.
We at Saint Joseph College pride ourselves not only on the beauty of our campus, but also on the warm and welcoming nature of our community. Our campus is also one of the more racially-diverse in Connecticut. This is point of pride, as is the fact that many of our students are first in their families to pursue higher education.
As we finalize our transition to University of Saint Joseph, we are pursuing a number of opportunities to welcome students from abroad to our ranks. We have launched an initiative designed to attract students from other countries, which has included outreach to young women in universities and high schools in China, Ghana, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Having a stronger international presence will allow current students the opportunity to expand their global understanding, and further enrich the educational experience for all.
Among my favorite days in the academic year is the one we call Symposium Day, which took place on April 18. It very much resembles the professional conferences that I have attended as a psychologist. Here at Saint Joseph College, it is the students who are both presenters and audience. True to an age-old academic tradition, they have the opportunity to profess what they have learned through study and research. From talks on ancient Greek sculpture and architecture to the use of photographic representations of the Muslim diaspora, the students informed and inspired one another. I must admit to sharing in the well-deserved pride that faculty mentors felt as they listened to their protégés discuss background research and explain scientific terminology. The confidence and excitement each student had developed for her discipline and the topic of her research truly shone through.
In the span of a week, I witnessed what The Washington Post has labeled the “Hillary effect,” i.e., the ability of the Secretary of State to bring together women of power to influence both policies and people. Although the Post was referencing the fact that Hillary Clinton’s presence as Secretary of State has led to a dramatic rise in the number of female foreign ambassadors in Washington, I am referring to two events at which the co-sponsorship of the State Department has led to a closer connection between American women’s colleges and women across the globe.
The first event was co-sponsored by the New York Academy of Science to celebrate Nobel Day and women in science. Secretary Clinton, via video, introduced a program (NEXXT Scholars) to encourage more young women to study science and, simultaneously, to encourage women’s colleges to recruit women students from Middle Eastern countries. The second event, Women in Public Service, was hosted by the Secretary herself at the State Department in Washington and brought together a dizzying show of woman-power. Attendees included former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, activist Gloria Steinem, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga, President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla, female admirals from the US Navy, and ambassadors from around the world. The theme was to inspire and plan for the development of women leaders with the assistance of women’s colleges.
Saint Joseph College is eager to engage in these endeavors. Both efforts, to develop women in science and as leaders, mesh beautifully our mission and our strategic plan. We are ready to reach out to women throughout the world with our programs and our community spirit.
As the United States withdraws troops from Iraq and the conflict in Afghanistan continues, we are aware of the hardships our military forces and their families have endured. Those involved in the military face challenges that result from financial strain, separation, trauma, and the loss of comrades and loved ones. We at Saint Joseph College appreciate the sacrifices they have made for our country, and we are proud of the alumnae/i who stand among them.
Women continue to play an increasingly integral role in the military. The first 19 women to complete officer training at submariners’school graduated just last week; female students earned two of the three class achievement awards. The commanding general of Parris Island is a woman. Saint Joseph College alumnae/i have served in a variety of military roles thoughout the years, many rising to high office – among our graduates was one of the Navy’s first female Rear Admirals.
We are excited to have been designated as a “military-friendly” institution and we look forward to welcoming more servicewomen and men to our programs.
This week’s historic winter storm has caused unprecedented damage here in Connecticut, with fallen trees and broken branches everywhere – many of which brought down power lines with them. Our campus has been without electricity since last weekend, although the welcome arrival of a generator on Wednesday allowed the College to reopen so that students can resume classes. I am grateful to everyone in the Saint Joseph College community who has worked so hard to help us get up and running during a very challenging situation.
As we mark the “official” end of summer with Labor Day weekend, I find myself reviewing some of the highlights of the season. There are so many delightful events that take place in the summer – free concerts in the park, trips to the shore, Shakespeare on campus, festivals and more.
One of my favorite summertime activities is planting and tending my garden. I find gardening both relaxing and productive, and it’s a wonderful activity to share with young people. Children from the SJC School for Young Children visited me in August and helped harvest summer squash, collard greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs. However, I think their favorite activity was watering the plants! My grandchildren also pitched in during their annual summer visit to Connecticut. They were able to enjoy watermelon and cantaloupe in addition to the veggies.