President Gearan, Trustees, Faculty, Staff, students, our two President’s Medal recipients, Dorothy Wickenden and David Rickey, it is my pleasure to be speaking today:
When I was looking for colleges to go to as a senior in high school, I wasn’t sure what to look for, so instead of doing my research I went to a friend’s graduation party. While wandering around their kitchen looking for something to eat, I saw a bumper sticker on the fridge: it said “Hobart and William Smith Colleges.” I really liked the colors (green and purple), so I asked my friend what this place was. I soon learned that HWS was a small liberal arts college about two hours from home. How did I never hear of this place? I visited a number of different times and fell in love. This was where I wanted to spend four years.
My first year, I fell in love with the school’s supportive faculty. You see, I had already taken one of the required biology courses in high school, but didn’t have the prereqs for any courses beyond that one. The professors understood that it would be impractical to sit through a class that I had already taken, so I was signed into an upper level course my first year. I was able to do this for two reasons. First, I took the opportunity to ask a couple professors about getting out of the intro course. Second, those professors were willing to listen to my case. The faculty really are something special at this school.
Sophomore year I saw a change in my relationships. A few close friends had transferred, everyone was in different dorms, and I had changed as a person. These changes allowed me to broaden my horizons. I started joining different clubs and getting involved in more things to meet different types of people. That was the year I ran for Student Trustee. I learned so much about this school in my sophomore year that I never even imagined my first year. I fell in love with HWS all over again because of the different opportunities that were available to me, such as being a member of the board of trustees.
Junior year was another whole different experience. I learned about a study abroad trip going to Siberia in May, at the end of the school year. I read the requirements and looked at the pictures and decided that going to Siberia to learn about the environment seemed like an amazing trip. I wrote my essay and turned in the application, a little apprehensive about actually getting accepted; I’d never traveled anywhere before! A few weeks later I got the e-mail telling me I was accepted to go. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to go to Siberia. Telling people that I was going was an experience in itself, and the trip was simply amazing. I learned that there are so many doors to be opened at this school, and Siberia was just one of many for me.
Now I’m entering my senior year. Maybe I’ll learn all about research by doing an honors project or maybe I’ll use all my extra time to look for job opportunities. There is so much left for me to do here, and the best part of it is, I’m always doing what I love.
I’d like to finish by giving a few words of advice to all four class years. Take as many opportunities as you can to get to know your professors, because they are more than just professors and you can learn so much from them outside of class. Join clubs, go out and meet people, do things outside your comfort zone. There are many things about this school you won’t learn unless you put yourself out there. Finally, take advantage of all this school offers. Go on a study abroad trip, take classes outside your major or minor, get involved in music or theater, tutor someone or be tutored (you’ll make a new friend). Take every opportunity you can to fall in love with this place. I wish you all good luck for the coming year and on all your journeys.
Maggi Sliwinski ?07, Hobart student trustee, offered this address at Convocation 2006.
August 30, 2006