by Micaela Freeman ’20
Providence College’s annual academic convocation and reception took place. Monday, August 27, in the Peterson Recreation Center. The event held over 1,000 freshmen, transfer students, and professors and welcomed everyone with a processional and keynote conversation with Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.
Tatum, formerly a clinical psychologist and a Bridgewater, Massachusetts native, is known for her expertise in race relations and has brought on growth and innovation to Spelman during her presidential tenure. Tatum is also an author of many bestselling books including, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and other conversations about race.
The event that signifies the official beginning of the academic year at Providence College has made landmark changes over the course of PC history.
Dr. Tatum, as a woman of color, spoke volumes about what it is like to be part of that community and references her book, which highlights dialogue students face everyday. She writes that the conversation of race cannot be changed, nor removed and that everyone should be speaking about it. Due to her former career, the study of racism launched her into a newfound interest that led her to both her books and recognition; Tatum also said she wants everyone, no matter their race, to be able to acknowledge the dialogue of racism.
“We are not supposed to talk about it,” Tatum said.
Because of Tatum’s address, students and professors said the event was filled with a sense of welcome.
Dr. James Beaver, a new addition to PC’s English department, said, “I was impressed by what a warm welcome the Providence College community gives to their new faculty, and it made be proud to me a part of PC.”
Beaver also noted that Monday’s events not only made him feel welcome, but also made him excited to be a part of a new community. He stated, “We hear that it is a special place, and that fact that I was welcomed so kindly by the president, provost, and current faculty really showed that firsthand. It was a great way to start off the semester.”
Lauren Keenan ’20, an Orientation Leader this fall, said that convocation did things differently than last year. Keenan said that it took a step forward in the right direction with Dr. Tatum’s address.
“I think that this year’s convocation was so important because of all of the negative media attention Providence College received last year. I think the concepts touched upon at convocation set the tone for what PC is looking to do to improve. The conversation at convocation set the tone for expectations of students regarding acceptance of all cultures, races, sexual orientations and preferences,” said Keenan.
“As an Orientation Leader, I think that convocation is a really important part of being welcomed into the Providence College community for both new students and new faculty,” said Keenan.
The event that not only introduced new professors and brought PC’s new students together, but also was a step in the right direction for PC to make the changes many students, including Keenan, are itching to see.
Tatum, who expressed both the importance of talking about race and solutions to better a community, said there is a simple solution everyone can follow.
Drawing the room to silence, Tatum gave her resolution; the “A-B-C’s,” affirming identity, building community, and cultivating leadership.
Both Keenan and Beaver said that the event created a sense of togetherness and a desire to change for the better. With Dr. Tatum’s notes, Keenan felt a sense of hope and said she is excited for the benefits of convocation.
“It also showed that we as a community not only acknowledge that there are problems on campus but also that we are looking to make changes and improve so that Friartown can be a safe and welcoming place for all students,” Keenan said.
As the new class tackles the upcoming year, the conversation this year’s convocation offered will continue throughout the year with both students and professors. With it as the official mark of the beginning of the 2018-2019 year, students now look forward to new changes, classes, and possibilites.