Harvard Extension School held a convocation for admitted students for the first time in its 108-year history Saturday.
Addressing an audience of 875, the speakers — which included deans, faculty, and alumni — emphasized community and celebrated student achievements.
“My message to you today is simple,” said Robert Neugeboren, dean of students and accessibility at the Division of Continuing Education. “This is your community. You belong here.”
The Extension School, part of the Division of Continuing Education within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, offers part and full-time programs for students of all ages seeking a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or graduate certificate. Out of approximately 2,700 admitted students, more than 400 attended the convocation ceremony in Cambridge, which was also live streamed.
“Our students are global and they’re all around the world, so we are live streaming this event for them,” said Jill N. Felicio, convocation organizer and a DCE administrator.
The brainchild of three Extension School students — Cheniece N. Kelleher, a recent graduate, Payum Noshiravan, and La’Toya P. Jackson — the inaugural convocation was organized after the students won the first-ever Dean’s Community Building Challenge.
“As we’ve grown online, we’ve been focusing on how do we do more to create community amongst the students,” Dean of DCE Huntington D. Lambert said. “The winning proposal was that we start having a convocation where we actually bring all the admitted students together, give them a chance to be here and meet us and meet each other.”
Kelleher, who attended a different institution for her undergraduate degree, said the convocation came from a desire to give students a “full welcome” resembling what she had experienced as an undergraduate.
Although Kelleher graduated last May without experiencing a Harvard convocation herself, she said she was happy to see the student proposal implemented and was excited that other students would have a “strong beginning” at the Extension School.
“It’s nice to have everybody come together at the beginning of the year. You meet new people and set the tone for the year,” Kelleher said. “This is a great step forward.”
Extension School student Rangesh R. Vittal said he would like to see additional events similar to the convocation to help foster a sense of community at the University. The convocation itself, however, exceeded his expectations.
“It was quite inspiring, it wasn’t just people from different countries, it was people from different ages, different backgrounds, different walks of life,” Vittal said. “I met people who are currently working, parents, first-time college-goers in their family.”
Though the students came from many different backgrounds, DCE Dean of Academic Programs Suzanne Spreadbury said they were all part of Harvard's legacy.
“Harvard Extension School has flourished, firmly representing an important part of Harvard’s history, as well as the future of education,” Spreadbury told the audience. “You have become part of Harvard’s history and tradition.”
— Staff writer Cindy H. Zhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org