President Dave Wolk speaks at the annual State of the University address. Speakers talked about growth of the University and changes for students and the institution.
The Casella theater was packed full of students and faculty at this year's convocation.
The ceremony was held on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 4 p.m. and broadcasted live through NSN and viewed by hundreds of spectators around the world.
The event began with a musical prelude performed by the Castleton wind ensemble, led by director Paul Kafer and ending with the National Anthem.
President Dave Wolk welcomed the audience greeting new students in particular, which he described as “an impressive group that set off to a wonderful beginning.”
This year is a notable one, as it marks the arrival of many new faculty and staff members and Wolk proceeded to welcome them one by one.
Jeb Spaulding, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges, who travelled to Castleton for the occasion, then occupied the podium.
He addressed Castleton and its students as a “great contribution to the Vermont landscape," thanking everybody for making Castleton special.
Helen Mango, president of the Faculty Assembly, then offered students a challenge and an offer of help.
“We want you to succeed,” she said, addressing the students, “we want you to reach for help.”
She proceeded to give an animated example of how to write an email to a professor, amusing the whole audience when she recalled having received inappropriate greetings such as “Yo.”
Then it was Tyler Anderson, class of 2017 president of the Student Government Association, who took the stage. He talked about what the SGA is working on, and what their goals are for this year. He said that they always welcome suggestions and involvement of the student body.
By then it was time for two special recognitions: Commuter student of the semester presented by Wolk and won by junior Dave Warnecke, and with the Outstanding Young Alumni award presented by Gary Quinn and won by Jenna Reed.
While awarding Reed, Quinn quoted Ralph Marston, saying “excellence is not a skill; it is an attitude,” and referred to Reed as an excellent alumna who succeeded in making her dreams of becoming a state forest ranger come true.
After the awards were given, Wolk moved on, talking about Spartan pride.
“Castleton is an extended family,” he stated. The affirmation raised a cheer in the crowd showing that Castleton students are definitely proud of their #343 green and of their alma mater.
He also talked about the new projects of the university, including new student housing in Rutland,
which will be featured in an open house on Sept. 15, and painting of the Old Chapel. He spoke about how tuition was frozen for the past year, and how Castleton added new scholarships.
“We are on the move,” Wolk stated.
There are new galleries in downtown Rutland, and there is new civic engagement opportunities regarding Project 240 – which consists of a collaboration between Castleton and the Rutland Paramount Theatre in order to elevate public discourse around the 2016 election.
“Vermont cannot stand still. The future demands that we continue moving both on and off campus,” Wolk said.
Then the video “Together We Can Change the World” was displayed, enhancing the real Castleton experience for both new and returning students. At the end of the video there was an unexpected guest.
Ryan Dempsey, from the band Twiddle, born right in the Castleton campus, walked on the stage and talked to the students about all the great opportunities that Castleton can offer, and how it changed his life. He then thanked Wolk for including his music in the soundtrack of the video and greeted the new and returning students, wishing them the best of luck on their journey.
After Dempsey’s surprise speech, Wolk talked about Rutland welcoming 100 Syrian refugees from 20 families.
Castleton is already forming, and will continue to form, multiple initiatives to celebrate Syrian culture and educate the community in order to help the refugees blend in and feel at home in Vermont.
“We are all one family, we are all related here,” Wolk stated.
On the same theme, he spoke about how Castleton has an amount of international students never seen before and representing 33 different countries.
For this semester, Castleton is also hosting Chinese faculty members, who will definitely contribute to the multicultural environment of our campus.
Some other news he announced involved new gender-neutral bathrooms and housing, the amplified transportation, which has upgraded to nine daily trips to Castleton’s Rutland campus and the agreement between Castleton and CCV that will allow the students of CCV to complete their education at Castleton at a facilitated cost.
It is clear that the general theme of this year's Convocation was openness and how welcoming Castleton, its president, student body, faculty and staff are toward the new.
“It has warmed my heart to witness the absolute euphoria from our students, staff, alumni and other friends over the years as we have cherished our transformation to Castleton University,” Wolk said in closing. “After 15 years here, it is so clear to me that indeed we are one extended family, on a journey together to transform lives and to be transformed ourselves.”