Summer Welcome Event: Photos and Remarks

The following are remarks delivered by President-elect Katherine Bergeron at a welcome event at Connecticut College on Aug. 21, 2013.  

It’s a thrill finally to be here on this beautiful campus and to have the chance to meet the CC community in person. I feel as though I have already come to know this place in so many ways through the students, faculty, and trustees I met on the search committee, and through all my own research over the past few months. But it is very meaningful for me to be here now, in your midst, and to feel the warmth of your welcome. It is an extraordinary honor to have been chosen as your next president, and I promise you that I will to do everything that I can to steward this wonderful College through another successful decade.

I am grateful to Lee Higdon for all that he has done to strengthen Connecticut College over the past seven years. As I told him, it is in part because of his excellent work that I found myself so attracted to this position. The success of the recent campaign, which you’ll soon be celebrating, has built up so much momentum; and as I jump onboard midstream, I am looking forward to catching that wave of excitement and following through on its promises. So, thank you, President Higdon!

As I told the search committee, and as you will come to know yourselves, I am a passionate believer in the power of the liberal arts, and it has become clear to me that Connecticut College offers one of the most powerful examples of that kind of education in the country. It is a place known for its exceptionally strong community, its academic rigor, and its environment of inclusiveness and social responsibility. And this reputation of excellence has been confirmed for me again and again in the past 24 hours, when countless people from Connecticut College, Brown, and many other places wrote to congratulate me and to tell me of their many connections to this place—as students themselves, or as the children or parents of students, or as colleagues of the CC faculty; in short, each one wanted to convey to me their sense of what an extraordinary school this is.

I myself have been impressed by what I would call the “connective learning environment” that characterizes Connecticut College. The College has several signature programs that serve to create this environment: There are, for example, the interdisciplinary centers, which connect learning across the disciplines; there is the residential community, which connects students and faculty in collaborative relationships; there is the stunning campus, which connects the natural world to the intellectual sphere; and there is the impressive internship program—one of the first of its kind—which connects students with the College’s 25,000 alumni and also connects academic work within the College to the world of work beyond the college.

Last night I received a wonderful welcoming note from Aaron Davis, a classics and dance major from the class of 2014 and a New London native, who is in Peru on a CELS and CISLA internship, teaching dance to young students. (Aaron even included a picture of his students who were all giving me the thumbs up!) Making this kind of connection between what you study here and what you do in the world is so important to the College experience; and Connecticut College has been doing this better than other places for a very long time.

Thinking of Aaron’s dancing as an example, I also have to say that I love the fact that Connecticut College is a place that takes seriously the “arts” in the liberal arts. The future of our world will depend on students whose intellectual development includes work in the creative sphere—students who have learned to think, and to solve complex problems, in creative and experimental ways. The arts offer a powerful platform for that kind of experimental practice, which is why they are so important to the kinds of critical thinking that we associate with a liberal arts education. Connecticut College has been a leader in this area for decades, too, and it’s another reason that I am so thrilled to be joining this community.

Finally, on a personal note, I have to say something about homecoming. As many of you know, I grew up not far from the College, in Old Lyme, Connecticut, and so, in many ways, this feels like a homecoming to me. But, I was thinking, what is even more special for me is the kind of place that I’m coming home to. I told the Board of Trustees yesterday: it is more meaningful than I can say to be returning to a school wholly dedicated to the kind of eye-opening, ear-opening, mind-bending education that I myself experienced as an undergraduate. Everything that I have achieved in my life can be traced back to that. I am so honored to have the opportunity to ensure that this same kind of rigorous and creative education can continue to thrive here at Connecticut College. Thank you so much.