Branching Out ~ Orientation Welcome

Jul 13, 2013

Sister Anne leads members of the Class of 2017 to the Memorial Arch to take their symbolic first steps on campus as new students.

I am delighted to have this opportunity to welcome all of you to Marywood University and to our New Student Orientation 2013.  First, I’d like to thank everyone involved in preparing these special days of new beginnings. Let’s ask all of the Marywood University students and staff whose hard work has made this experience possible to please stand (or just wave if you are already standing). 

Thank you for the energy, enthusiasm, and dedication that you have invested in this weekend in order to welcome your newest classmates. Ladies and Gentlemen, let us give all of these outstanding students and staff a hearty round of applause.

Class of 2017, I welcome you and your families with a joyful heart. Each of you has chosen to become a part of Marywood, and now Marywood will become part of who you are, remaining with you, even when your days on this campus are just a cherished memory. We have a remarkable history as an institution of higher education, and you are a vital part of our story now.

This weekend will help you discover the scope of this weekend’s theme—Branching Out—because at Marywood, our mission encompasses all you need to successfully “branch out” and create your distinctive path to a well-rounded education. First of all, we provide a welcoming and supportive community, which I am sure you’re already experiencing…Orientation Weekend is just the start.

We believe that education empowers people, so your time at Marywood will be the foundation for greater things. You will be empowered by others, both in the classroom and through the many other opportunities that will shape your experience here—friendships, residence life; local, national, and international service; research and internships; student life activities. You, in turn, will empower others through your distinctive gifts and talents.

Sink your roots deeply here and you will, indeed, branch out and grow. As Mark Twain noted so well, growth “is the most rigorous law of our being.  No smallest atom of our moral, mental, or physical structure can stand still a year.  It grows—it must grow; nothing can prevent it.”

Our graduates have shared with us, time and again, that through the many empowering growth experiences and opportunities they have had at Marywood, they feel better prepared professionally and personally.

Laura Olsen completed her first four years as a Communication Sciences and Disorders major in May and is now in the transition phase within the five-year program, through which she will ultimately earn her master’s degree in the field. She shared that her Marywood experience was shaped by learning the importance of serving others. “There is a great emphasis on community service, which has strengthened my relationships and made me a better person,” said Lauren. “I know that I have the knowledge and qualifications necessary to succeed in my field, but Marywood has also provided me with the moral values that will allow me to truly serve and make an impact in the lives of my future clients.”

It is our mission to educate you to live responsibly in an interdependent world. That may sound like some lofty, abstract ideal right now, but, much like the branches on a tree, every little period of growth, every challenge that you face, each opportunity to grow stronger and to reach a bit closer to the sky, will prepare you to do just that.

Ryan Jones, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in Digital Media, and Matthew Maldonato, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Accounting, both understand this concept.

Ryan is representing the United States on the USA Soccer Team at the Maccabi Games in Israel this month. Additionally, he was recruited for the graduate school/soccer academy at Leeds Metropolitan University in Leeds, England. While at Leeds, he will be studying for a master’s degree in Public Relations and Communications, as well competing for a professional contract in soccer. Ryan told us, “I love soccer and Marywood gave me the opportunity to play while completing my degree. I hope that one day I will have the opportunity to do what I love every day.”

Matthew, who says his most memorable Marywood experience was traveling to China on a Spring Break Study Abroad trip, is presently a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Activities and Resource Center at NYU Poly, while he also pursues a Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Affairs at NYU. Matthew, who aspires to be a University Vice President in either Business Affairs or Student Life, shared, “I am more open to experiencing new things and getting involved. I would not be the person I am today without my experiences in orientation, student activities, student government, and study abroad.”

Please know…and I can’t emphasize this enough:  it doesn’t matter what your background is or what your academic and professional goals are—even if you haven’t decided on a major, or if you change your mind about your course direction along the way—everyone has a place here; each branch to success is important. Our values and mission will nourish and sustain your growth and progress.

At Marywood, we use our very surroundings as a living classroom, combining the aesthetic charm of the campus with educational components and an appreciation of the environment. Take note of the amazing varieties of plants, trees, flowers, and shrubs, all artfully landscaped into a breathtaking display of natural beauty, as you walk through our campus, which has been a national arboretum since 1997. To date, the Arboretum at Marywood University has 42 species of trees that contain 103 varieties, and a comparable number and variety of shrubs, as well as ornamental grasses, perennial, biennial and annual blooms.

How does this relate to your college experience? Well, aside from the fact that our tulips always seem to bloom just in time for Commencement—every single year—you’ll see—our beautiful campus is a symbolic representation of the substantial academic life we cultivate here. Just as the vast botanical assortment contributes to our outstanding arboretum, the wide array of students we welcome each year enlivens Marywood’s remarkable academic landscape.

The characteristics of each of you—some bold and extraverted, others gentle and reserved—will combine to create the Class of 2017’s distinctive display of abilities and accomplishments. In nature, the tiniest plant is as important as the tallest tree, because each has its own purpose, its own reason for being. Each one contributes to the overall health and well-being of the entire environment.

 It is an interdependent world, from microscopic organisms to grand natural wonders—and each of us, each one of you—has a place in this world and in this University that no one else can fill.

You ARE the Class of 2017. No class before you or after you will be quite the same. So, tend to those distinctive qualities about you, individually and collectively, that make your class the unique masterpiece that it already is.

When an educational journey is a new one, as yours is, envisioning the ways in which you can grow and branch out can seem overwhelming, but I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid of making a mistake. Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.  The entire Marywood university community is here to support you.

So open your eyes, minds, and hearts to the new opportunities before you—branch out and grow. Don’t feel that you have to wait to make a difference—start right away! You’re already making a difference by being here. Keep growing, keep reaching for the sky.

Along with more than 30,000 Marywood alumni, you are now an important part of a legacy of progress that has prospered for nearly 100 years. Our Centennial Celebration in 2015 will occur right in the middle of your time here, just two years from now. We are ready to grow and branch out with you in new, exciting ways. One very exciting development in the near future is that in October we will be breaking ground for a $35 million state-of-the art Learning Commons, a major academic resource for your class and the entire University. I welcome you to be part of all that Marywood is and will become.

To each member of the Class of 2017, I am so glad you are here, and I am eager to see how the seeds of your dreams will take root and grow into successful, life-changing deeds and experiences!

It is up to you.  In the coming days and weeks, I urge you to think about these wonderful questions raised by the poet, David Whyte:

What shape

waits in the seed

of you to grow

and spread

its branches

against a future sky?

Is it waiting

in the fertile sea?

In the trees

beyond the house?

In the life

you can imagine

for yourself?

In the open

and lovely

white page

on the waiting desk?

(From “What To Remember When Waking”)

It is time to grab hold of this moment of great opportunity.  Branch out willingly, Class of 2017, and with great joy!