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Westminster Opening Convocation sends message of community, collaboration

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Posted on Friday, August 27, 2021

Westminster College officially opened its 169th academic year on Friday, Aug. 27, with the annual Opening Convocation ceremony that welcomed more than 300 new students to campus.

Westminster College President Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson reflected on the many challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented over the past year, but also the many ways the Westminster community prevailed and how students, faculty and staff members “learned and worked together in ways that epitomize the spirit of this college that I like to call the ‘We’ in ‘Westminster.’”

“We have been reminded of the power of community and how to strengthen and maintain it, even during challenging days. We will continue that process this term, a term in which that even while we are wearing our cloth face coverings, you will have the opportunity to get to know each other as classmates, dormmates, teammates and friends,” she said.

First-year students arrived on campus early Friday morning and were greeted by nearly 100 upperclass orientation leaders and football players who helped unload cars and move belongings into residence halls.

The new students represent 25 different states, with most coming from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Maryland, New York and Virginia. Business administration, biology, nursing and psychology make up the most popular majors for the members of the Class of 2025.

Richardson charged the new students to enter into the Westminster community wholeheartedly, to work together and make the Westminster College campus an even better place.

“We believe you all have the capacity to succeed and to excel,” she said.

Richardson reminded students that every member of the campus community is expected to honor the standards of compassion, justice and a disciplined life in the pursuit of excellence, and she urged students to offer their personal best and excellence as a student and as a campus citizen.Richardson also spoke of one of the fundamental academic principles at Westminster: collaboration.

“We believe the path to learning and success is not a solitary pathway. We believe students should walk, work and learn alongside our faculty,” said Richardson. “I hope you will embrace that idea of connection, collaboration and experience as you begin your walk as a student today.”

Dr. Jamie McMinn, dean of the College and vice president for academic affairs, offered a message of welcome and challenged students to take advantage of the academic opportunities available at Westminster and engage with faculty.

“They will guide you through the many wonders of a liberal arts education. They will challenge you. They will inspire you,” he said. “Join them on this academic journey that will lead you to interesting and transformative places.”

Dr. Jeffrey Bersett, professor of Spanish and film studies, introduced himself and his faculty colleagues, and shared stories of his academic mentors and the impact educators can have on students.

“You don’t really know us yet, but you will, and the first thing that you should know is that we were all once, some of us recently, some of us very, very long ago, you. We were all in some way sitting right where you are sitting now. We all were about to meet faculty members who would soon be changing our lives,” he said.

He encouraged students to connect with and work with faculty members in hopes that they would be as inspired and challenged as he was as a young student.

“Work hard with these people, and they will change your lives,” he said.

Student government president and senior biology major Noah Pollio offered student greetings, urging students to embrace their new community and the opportunity to explore their passions.

“I urge you to treat this time reverently, to pursue goals and your interests, and to do it with gusto,” he said. “Students who capitalize on their time at Westminster truly leave this campus endowed with the traits of human beings at their best.”

The Opening Convocation ceremony is available for viewing on demand at