Pareena Lawrence led her first Opening Convocation as Hollins University’s 12th president, telling a capacity duPont Chapel audience that she brings a “deep commitment and passion for learning, transformation, and access and equity to opportunities to Hollins. I know I have a lot more listening to do, a lot to learn…and I am ready.”
Lawrence spoke before students, faculty, and staff on August 29, the eve of the beginning of the 2017-2018 academic year.
“As I stand here today,” Lawrence said, “I can reflect on my life’s journey to date and say that everything in my life – from my attending an all-girls school in India to my career teaching and working at residential liberal arts colleges to my research work, which included several undergraduate student researchers and focused on the intersection of women and the economy – all these experiences were preparing me for this extraordinary opportunity at Hollins.”
Lawrence called Hollins’ mission “compelling. While I was not a product of a liberal arts education, I spent 23 years teaching and working at two liberal arts institutions. I personally witnessed the power of a small residential liberal arts university and there is no other place I would rather be….I know first-hand the undivided time, attention, and mentoring that our faculty and staff devote to you, our students, to help you find and pursue your passion or your interests so that you can live a life of purpose and meaning.
“This is not a place that accepts passive education; we expect you to fully engage. At a place like Hollins, it is not just about what you can do with your degree. Universities should prepare you for a job, but that is only part of what we do. We play a central role in helping shape the next generation of citizens, leaders, thinkers, creators, and policy makers who understand their role in our larger society. That is ultimately what a Hollins education is all about, and why I wanted to be a part of this mission.”
Lawrence shared a translation of a Hindi poem by Achala Nagar “that has always inspired me, especially when times were really difficult and all I wanted to do was give up and give in.”
Just this once let me live my life on my own terms
According to my dreams and aspirations
Let me pen my own destiny no matter the consequences
Let the outcomes be determined by my own choices and mistakes
Just once let me live my life on my own terms
According to my own dreams and aspiration
Let me pen my own destiny
Other highlights of this year’s Opening Convocation included the presentation of class honors by Vice President of Academic Affairs Trish Hammer; remarks from Antonia Nagle ’18, president of the Student Government Association; and special music from members of the Hollins choirs. Following convocation, the class of 2018 observed First Step, where seniors take their first official steps onto Front Quad. Tradition maintains that seniors are the only students permitted to walk on the grass on Front Quad.
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