Stonehill celebrated the start of the 2015-2016 academic year at its annual Academic Convocation in the Sally Blair Ames Sports Complex on Wednesday, September 2nd.
The members of the Class of 2019 as well as transfer students were formally welcomed to the College at the ceremony where Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology Chris Wetzel delivered the keynote address and Associate Professor of Biology Brownyn Heather Bleakley was honored with this year’s Louise F. Hegarty Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Overwhelmed by the surprise announcement, Bleakley joked “I am extremely grateful to be at a place where my nerdiness is mistaken for wisdom.”
Earlier this summer, Bleakley was awarded what is considered to be one of the most prestigious faculty grants in the country, a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Grant worth $899,000. The grant allows her to expand her research on proximate and evolutionary causes of social behaviors while giving Stonehill students comprehensive research and mentorship experiences. It marked the first NSF CAREER Grant awarded to a faculty member at the College.
The Hegarty Award is given annually to the faculty member whose teaching has had a marked influence on the lives of Stonehill students. The Committee on Excellence in Teaching, representing students, faculty, and the Alumni Council, selects the outstanding teacher from those nominated by students and faculty members.
In presenting the award to Bleakley, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joseph Favazza read excerpts from faculty and student nominations.
Heather is, quite simply, a force of nature. Her tireless dedication to her students, her courses, and her colleagues constantly amazes me. She is someone that is setting the standard for all of us, and I find that very inspiring.
In Biology 102 her enthusiasm made me fall in love with the majesty that is biology. In addition to her countless hours spent preparing a classroom environment that is most conducive for student learning, she also gives everything she has to help her students outside of the classroom.
Ever since I expressed my interest in marine biology and conservation, Professor Bleakley has taken the time to talk to me and forward me numerous emails and links about various programs or internships in these fields that she thought I might be interested in. Knowing that there is a professor at Stonehill who cares so much about helping me obtain my dream job is an incredible feeling, and it is all thanks to Professor Bleakley.
In his keynote speech, Wetzel encouraged students to actively engage in life at the College and enrich dialogues about subjects and issues important to them in order to foster change.
“We can all be agents of change and together we co-produce our collective stories of Stonehill every day…we should use the time intentionally to build collective stories of Stonehill through multiplying movements, deepening engagement, and fostering collective action. To act collectively is to live out the College’s mission,” said Wetzel, who received the Hegarty Award last year.
Also speaking at Wednesday’s ceremony were Senior Class President Cody Page ’16, who presented the annual senior class shovel to President John Denning, C.S.C.
Page explained why he chose a 1944 World War II era shovel to represent the Class of 2016.
“What makes this type of shovel unique is its compact stature…it was mainly used as an entrenching tool for digging fox holes but occasionally also used as a weapon in combat. The shovel’s compactness and durability I like to equate to Stonehill…Stonehill’s student body of roughly 2,500 is minuscule compared to larger universities, but our reach appears boundless,” said Page, noting the College’s H.O.P.E. trips, study abroad program and other service outreach programs.
“Our ability to serve and help others is what truly epitomizes the Stonehill student body,” said Page.
Robert Taylor ’91, who presented the Class of 2019 with their silver pins and the Class of 2016 with their gold pins, reminded students that their personal success will largely be dependent on character and grit, not just being smart.
“When I talk about character and grit, I’m talking about developing such strengths as conscientiousness, curiosity, optimism, gratitude, and perseverance,” Taylor explained.
“The experiences that you have as part of this community combined with your own determination, will help you develop the necessary traits that you will need for success outside of the confines of this beautiful campus,” said Taylor.
Closing out the ceremony was President John Denning, C.S.C., who advised students to immerse themselves in the many opportunities they will have this coming year at the College.
“Dig deep as you work to understand the world and do not settle for easy answers or the ready solutions,” said Fr. Denning. “Engage with your professors, advisors, coaches and get involved. Become part of a rich dialogue that challenges you to think creatively and intelligently about the issues that confront our world,” he continues.
“I am excited for the new academic year and look forward to working with students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. I wish each and every one of you a productive and rewarding year ahead,” said Fr. Denning in closing.