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New students urged to build their homes at CSB and SJU during All-College Convocation

Think of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University as the neighborhood in which you’ll build your new home.

That was what CSB Student Senate President Clair Moonen and SJU Student President Wesley Kirchner encouraged new students at both schools to do during their welcoming address at the All-College Convocation held Friday morning (August 25) in the Escher Auditorium at CSB’s Benedicta Arts Center.

“Every house needs a good, strong foundation,” Moonen told the packed auditorium. “You are that strong foundation. Until now, you’ve been shaped by your family, peers, friends and places you’ve called home. Let’s build upon that. By sitting here today, you’ve proven stronger than any slab of concrete. From this day forward, any cracks will be reinforced by this (faculty) community right here behind me.”

Kirchner encouraged the new arrivals to get involved, drawing on the CSB and SJU community to structure and furnish their new dwelling.

“Let’s put up some walls,” Kirchner said. “Walls that will keep you warm in the harsh Minnesota winters and cool in the hot summers. On the inside, these walls will be covered with the memories that you make and the experiences that you have. While here at CSB and SJU, you can explore dozens upon dozens of majors, minors, clubs, sports and activities that can and will form you. My walls have pictures of me spending time with friends in the Abbey arboretum, working in the woodshop with Saint John’s Campus Ministry, studying abroad in Italy and being in Saint John’s Student Senate.

“Your walls can be as full or sparse as you choose,” he continued. “But Clair and I would love to see some photos on those walls when we come over and visit.”

Friday’s ceremony officially opened the 2023-24 academic year. Last year marked the first time it was held jointly instead of having separate convocations on each campus. It now rotates between the SJU and CSB campus every other year.

This year, for the first time, convocation was held during first-year orientation instead of on the first day of classes, which is next Monday (August 28).

“At the beginning of each academic year, the faculty, students and staff of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University gather in academic assembly,” Brian J. Bruess, Ph.D., the joint president of both schools, said in his welcome.

“We celebrate convocation every year to rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, and to publicly affirm our intention to support each other in our collective effort to know, to practice and to live the Benedictine values. We live, study and work in community. Nurtured, lifted up and strengthened by those around us.”

The faculty convocation address was delivered by Dr. Erica Stonestreet, an associate professor of philosophy at CSB and SJU.

“I urge you always to look around you and at your surroundings,” she said. “I mean this literally of course. Look and see. But use your other senses too. Every day, there will be something new about these beautiful campuses. The leaves will change, the clouds will change, the bells will call the hour. Flowers and snow will come and go.”

“This is where we move from looking to becoming,” she continued later in her remarks.

“Become the poet in your English classes, the cells in your biology microscope, the notes in your musical performances.”

Kirchner told new students CSB and SJU are environments where taking chances on new things and experiencing personal growth is encouraged.

“Here at CSB and SJU, we have things worth taking risks for,” he said. “So take them. Sit by a new person on The Link (the bus connecting the two campuses). You could make a new friend. Go on that study abroad trip and expand your worldview. We have dozens available. Raise your hand in class and don’t be scared to ask the burning questions you have. Do things that challenge you and you will grow.”

Moonen said there are plenty of new neighbors to lean on for support over the course of new students’ time on campus and beyond.

“Take notes and take advantage,” she said. “You’re one of us now. So take advantage of the Bennie-Johnnie connection. Let that title Bennie or Johnnie take you anywhere.”

Convocation 2023

A packed house in Escher Auditorium at the Benedicta Arts Center on the College of Saint Benedict campus listens to CSB and Saint John’s University President Brian Bruess speak at the All-College Convocation on Friday, August 25.

Convocation 2023 side view

Brian Bruess, president of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, speaks at the All-College Convocation on Friday, August 25.