Melizza Zavala Duran '18

Melizza Zavala Duran '18, Penn State Mont Alto Student Government president, urges the incoming class to "Dream Big," during the Convocation Ceremony.

Image: Debra Collins

'Dream Big' is convocation message

“Dream big just like I did,” said Melizza Zavala Duran, Penn State senior and Student Government Association president, during Penn State Mont Alto's Convocation Ceremony on Aug. 19, in the gymnasium. 

Duran and others welcomed the incoming Class of 2017 and encouraged the students to get involved.

Convocation traditionally opens each new school year with words of encouragement and the flair of faculty in full academic regalia.

Cody Shetter, a sophomore on campus sang the "National Anthem" and invited the orientation leaders to help him lead the "Penn State Alma Mater" to close the ceremony.

Diane Chamberlin, director of enrollment management, presented the class and said, “You are truly a melting pot of diversity coming from all lifestyles and family heritages.”

She said the students come from California, Delaware, Washington (D.C.), Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, as well as Germany, China, Pakistan, and Egypt.

Lauraine Hawkins, assistant professor of biology and recipient of the 2017 Student Government Award for Excellence in Advising and the 2016 Eisenhower Award for Outstanding Teaching, shared some key ideas to help students be successful.

“We celebrate diversity,” she said. She also asked the students to be honest with themselves and the people around them, to be present, and to remember that, “We learn from practice.”

 “Dream Big! Gear up and make this your place,” she said.

Michael Doncheski, director of academic affairs and professor of physics, urged the students to represent Penn State values, including: integrity, respect, responsibility, discovery, excellence and community.

Chancellor Francis Achampong wanted the students to know they had made the right decision by coming to Penn State Mont Alto. He described a recent Georgetown University study that says by the year 2020, 35 percent of job openings will require some college or an associate degree.

“People who have a college degree also make more than those who do not – over their lifetimes, $1 million or more,” he said.

“But it is more than just that. Those with an education also have learned critical thinking skills, better communications and problem solving skills, and the ability to work within a team. And, that is what Penn State Mont Alto is here to do – improve lives,” he said.

“I encourage you to take full advantage of all that we have to offer. We are here for you,” said Achampong.

“Welcome to the beginning of an improved life.”

More photos are here.