Students, faculty, staff and alumni filled the rows of Castleton University’s Casella Theater this past Thursday for this semester’s Convocation ceremony—celebrating new students, new opportunities and the hard work of those involved with the Vermont State University transformation.
The event, hosted by Campus Executive Director Cathy Kozlik, featured voices from across the Castleton University community as well as the newly appointed president of the rising Vermont State University, Parwinder Grewal.
“(I) specifically want to single out the new students. New students who have come from Vermont, from other parts of the country, from other countries and also transferring students. Thank you for choosing this particular campus. I must say that you made the right choice,” Grewal said.
In addition to honoring new students, new international students, as well as faculty and staff were also recognized, per Convocation tradition. Welcomed this semester were 27 new employees and a record-breaking 44 international students from 17 countries—totaling a combined 48 countries represented across the student body.
“Neither the continuing challenges of a global pandemic, closed embassies, delayed visas, canceled flights, or any of the other challenges of this moment could keep this incredible group from coming to Castleton,” said Adreinne Matunas, coordinator of the Pathway Program for English Learners.
Castleton University’s Faculty Assembly President Preston Garcia also took to the podium to let students know they are “the heart and soul” of Castleton and that, despite the upcoming changes, faculty and staff alike will remain dedicated to the success of each individual.
“This is an interesting time here. You can look around and see Castleton logos and images that we all know and love in this very room and, at the same time, there’s logos representing Vermont State University, who we will become in July of next year,” Garcia said. “Your success is our success. There may be some changes in the coming years, but I can guarantee you what will not change are the people here in Castleton.”
Borrowing a line from the movie, “Thor: Ragnarok”, Garcia added that “Castleton’s not a place, it’s a people” and advised students to engage with all the people Castleton has to offer.
Castleton sophomore and SGA President Perry Ragouzis reminded students of the opportunities that the university can provide and of the openings available on student court and on the Campus Activities Board.
“People of unbelievable talent, intellect and skill have lived in these halls, have walked on the sidewalks, have attended these classes and stood where I stand now,” Ragouzis said. “Each one of these people all started not so different from anyone else in this room today. Each and every one of them was given a moment—a chance—they wouldn’t have received anywhere else, to change their life forever. That is what Castleton provides.”
Prior to the ceremony’s end with the traditional singing of the alma mater by the university choir, Grewal’s parting words urged students make the most of their years at Castleton—whatever that may look like.
“Each one of you can reach your goals and can go beyond that. Because if sources are there, you can go get them. This campus, its mission, the ‘Castleton Way’ will help you get to where you want to get,” he said.