The annual Castleton University convocation ceremony was held in Casella Theatre on Aug. 30 – but this one had something special about it.
Castleton’s new president, Karen M. Scolforo, was introduced and the stage was set for what was to come. Hundreds were in attendance, filling up the theatre and awaiting her first words.
“I’m excited to see the president fully embark on her presidential career at Castleton. The ceremony revolves around her installation,” said Izzy Gogarty who worked closely with Scolforo the previous year as SGA president.
Scolforo is now the tenth Castleton president of the modern era and only the fourth woman to fill this position at Castleton.
Chief Academic Officer Jonathan Spiro got the ceremony rolling with the introduction of VSCS Chancellor Jeb Spaulding, who spoke about the search that led to Scolforo’s hiring.
“The leader we were looking for was someone who would be an inspiring and collaborative leader with deep commitment to student success and excellence to the full sense of the word,” Spaulding said.
He then said he has no doubt that Scolforo fits these requirements.
“She got the ’Castleton Way.’ And for the nine past months non-stop, Karen and the entire Castleton team have been working to strengthen these essential elements of Castleton. And the hard work has paid off: new enrollment is up, exciting initiatives are in the works, and the budget picture is considerably brighter.”
Those in attendance patiently waited for the new president’s address, and they were not disappointed. Scolforo started her speech thanking a number of people then followed with a very powerful story about her experience with a Castleton student that very morning. She emotionally told how she approached an international student who appeared to need help, but who was actually looking for her to offer her a scarf from his home country, Tibet, to say good luck. The card that came with the gift said, “I chose Castleton and Castleton has chosen me.”
The “Castleton Way” and diversity were strong points of Scolforo’s presentation.
“Diversity is so important to us because our students not only learn in the classroom from our faculty, but also learn from their peers. This diversity helps to expand our minds, and a perfect example of this is that I learned something wonderful today,” she said.
Scolforo wanted it to be very clear that we as a community have a duty to the future of the workforce.
“We need to differentiate ourselves so we can become experts in different areas to meet the needs of the workforce as we move forward,” she said.
She also said she views collaboration as a focal point for our university.
“We are providing a transformational experience for our students. A holistic education is necessary, and students who get involved have stronger resumes. Keeping up with changes in the world is important. Higher education is their chance to advance and change their economic status,” she said.
Scolforo then told another story of how a young woman at a conference she attended came up with an innovative plan to keep her sweltering dorm cool by propping up her fan in a manner no one else did, and how everyone followed her lead.
“This is just one example of why collaboration is very important. I am a huge fan of sharing ideas and learning from each other, including our collaboration with our faculty and assembly. Student Government Association, your voices are so important to us,” she said.
Addressing some of the available new programs, Scolforo said, “To the new Student Advisory Council for Innovation, this is your chance to share your ideas and leave your legacy at Castleton University.”
The small theatre on campus erupted with applause as the new president wrapped up her speech and many headed outside for a barbeque on the lawn of the Old Chapel.