On Tuesday, Oct. 26, the 2021 Fall Convocation for the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias was held at The Hutchins Concert Hall in the Collins Center for the Arts through a YouTube livestream.
“Today we explore the theme of connecting our past with our present and future,” John Volin said, the executive vice president for academic affairs for the University of Maine.
William “Dee” Nichols, a UMaine professor and the faculty senate president opened the Convocation by reading the UMaine land acknowledgment.
“Both of our universities recognize that in these homelands, issues of water and territorial rights and encroachment on these sacred sights are ongoing,” Nichols said.
UMM is located on the homeland of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the university is very vocal about the land acknowledgment.
This was greatly appreciated by the keynote speaker for the convocation, Representative Rena Newell, the Passamaquoddy Tribal Representative in the Maine House of Representatives.
“It is my hope to bring a message from an indigenous perspective,” Newell said.
In her speech she reflected on her work as a tribal representative.
“My work in the legislature is with good intention to strengthen representation and bring a voice to the issues that affect us,” Newell said.
Representative Newell closed her speech with this message to the Class of 2025.
“The time is now to change the narrative, for the future generations deserve this. We must come to accept the richness and diversity of all who share this land by working together. I believe collectively we can make the difference,” Newell said.
Also present during the Convocation was the President of UMaine and UMM, Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy.
“This gathering is meant to be a welcome to the new students joining our community, and a greeting to all who have returned. This is especially fitting given all that we have faced during the past 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ferrini-Mundy said.
She described this return to campus and the in-person environment as being a warm reunion and a celebration of being together. President Ferrini-Mundy also had an important announcement during her address to the students.
“Today I am announcing the UMaine Students Define Tomorrow Initiative,” Ferrini-Munday said.
According to Ferrini-Mundy, the initiative will include a series of open student-led ideas labs beginning in December.
“These are to elicit and discuss your ideas. What do you want for your time here at UMaine or at UMaine Machias?” Ferrini-Mundy asked.
The Class of 2025 also got to hear from a student perspective as UMaine Student Government Vice President Elizabeth Davis was a guest speaker.
“Hearty Maine Hello Class of 2025. It’s difficult to believe that three years have passed since I was in your position,” Davis said.
Davis talked about her struggles of self-seclusion during her first years and how it impacted her.
“It took the pandemic to make me realize something I wished I had known when I was in your shoes; that any experience, including college, is what you make of it,” Davis said.
She encouraged the Class of 2025 to build strong relationships with their professors, to get involved on campus and to put themselves out there.
“It’s up to you to create the campus environment that you want to live in,” Davis said.
Janina Deisenreider, the president of the graduate student government, also spoke during the Convocation.
Deisenreider graduated from UMaine in May of 2021 with a master’s degree in communication and is currently a communications and policy intern for AARP.
“I would have never assumed that after just one and a half semesters, the global pandemic would fundamentally change the way we receive education,” Deisenredier said.
Deisenreider talked about how proud she is of the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“UMaine stood unwavering in its commitment to foster students’ success, discover and produce new knowledge and advance the cultural, economic and civic interests of communities around Maine,” Deisenreider said.
Deisenreider is looking forward to this upcoming academic year and seeing how the Class of 2025 moves forward with their studies.
Vice President for Student Life and Inclusive Excellence and Dean of Students, Robert Dana, gave the closing remarks for the Convocation.
“For our new students and for our continuing students, you are at a time in your life that could never be more important,” Dana said. “I hope you will take an opportunity to reflect on the importance of your college experience, I hope that you will grow and prosper in this community here and in Machias, loving communities and caring communities.”
As the Class of 2025 were sent off for the start of their college journey, they were serenaded by the Executive Director for the Collins Center for the Arts at UMaine, Danny Williams, as he closed the Convocation with a singing of the Stein Song.