“I just received a message from air traffic control. They’ve cleared us for take-off. Let the journey begin.”
That’s how Brian J. Bruess, Ph.D. – the first joint president of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University – welcomed students at both schools at the All-College Convocation held Monday morning (Aug. 29) in the Saint John’s Abbey and University Church.
The ceremony officially opened the 2022-23 academic year. And, for the first time, it was held jointly instead of having separate convocations on each campus. It’s part of the continuing journey to Strong Integration – the title used to describe the two schools’ new governance and leadership structure.
It’s not a merger, but rather a natural extension and strengthening of the relationship between the institutions, whose classes and faculty departments have long been integrated already.
“Today, we gather for the first time together,” Bruess said. “Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s in one convocation. While annually, we will rotate the physical location of the convocation, taking great advantage of the power of place of both campuses, we will forever here forward celebrate the opening of the academic year together.”
Carrying through on the flight metaphor, incoming CSB Student Senate President Andrenique Rolle and incoming SJU Student Senate President Durran Thompson played the role of flight attendants, welcoming students aboard the CSB and SJU experience.
“We appreciate your decision to fly with us today,” Rolle said. “Our flight time will be approximately four years at a cruising altitude of greatness.”
Rolle urged students to take advantage of all assistance available to them on both campuses.
“These life rafts are the resources we have on campus,” she said. “Campus resources are designed to make college easier. But that’s only the case if you take advantage of them. Remember, every student needs help at some point. Taking advantage of these resources doesn’t mean that you’re failing at college. It means that you know how to take advantage of the plethora of resources you already paid for.”
Thompson spoke of the sense of community that exists at CSB and SJU.
“Looking over today’s flight manifest, we can see there are passengers coming from various places around the world,” he said. “However, on this flight, we are one. We are a community. A community filled with dynamic students. We urge you not to isolate yourself. We want you to branch out and get involved. But most importantly, we want you to be true to yourself.”
Rolle and Thompson were followed by Corrie Gross, an assistant professor of environmental studies, who delivered the convocation address. She told incoming students that faculty members and staff stand ready to help them as they begin their collegiate journey.
“Come find us,” she said. “Ask questions. Be curious. Build relationships. Together we have a lot of power.”
Bruess called on every member of the CSB and SJU community to continue doing their part to make this a welcoming place for all.
“As we begin this academic year, let us remember our Benedictine tradition,” he said. “Including the values of listening, hospitality and the inherent dignity of each individual. Let us challenge ourselves to ensure that our words and actions help make our community respectful and welcoming to all those who choose to work, live and study here.”