Future Plans, Aspirations Lauded at Fall Convocation

Merrimack College officially marked the start of the academic year by welcoming its newest students, and recognizing the Class of 2024 for its leadership and resilience.
Photo of Laura Kurdziel speaking on stage in front of a crowd of students.
Laura Kurdziel, associate professor of psychology, delivered the keynote address at the 2023 Merrimack College Fall Convocation.

With the start of each new school year at Merrimack College, the audience at Academic Convocation continues to get bigger and bigger. At the 2023 ceremony to mark the start of the academic year, Merrimack College President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D. noted the College is welcoming more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 560 graduate students.

“Our community is growing,” he said during his remarks to students. “And over the past few years, we have seen the campus transform.”

Academic Convocation took place on Thursday, Aug. 31, on Sullivan Quad. In addition to welcoming the Class of 2027 to the Merrimack community, President Hopey also acknowledged the members of the Class of 2024, who led the student procession wearing the same robes they will wear at Commencement in the spring.

“The last three years have shaped you,” President Hopey said to the seniors. “Now you are the leaders of the student body. And your responsibility is to help shape the classes following you.”

In his remarks, Provost John “Sean” Condon, Ph.D., encouraged the students to work closely with faculty members and take advantage of their breadth of knowledge.

“Our faculty have made significant contributions to their fields of study and the classroom experience, which inspires and motivates our students,” he shared. “Their mentorship and experiences are just as critical to your education as the books you will read, the research you will conduct and the internships you will complete.”

One such esteemed faculty member is Laura Kurdziel, associate professor of psychology, who received the 2023 Edward G. Roddy Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. In her keynote speech, she advised students to get out of their comfort zones, follow their passions and take key insights from every failure.

“Do not limit yourself to being one thing,” she said. “Interdisciplinary is the future of almost every career…for me, being a neuroscientist benefited from my years of being a babysitter and a theater camp counselor.”

Her theater background, she explained, taught her the importance of the old improv saying – “yes, and.”

“Oftentimes it’s not the ‘yes’ that makes you marketable or successful or, heaven forbid, happy,” she concluded. “It’s often the and that makes you exemplary. So put your own personal spin on your academic career.”

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