This week, Villa Maria College began a new tradition that will serve as an annual kickoff to each new academic year.
The College’s first Fall Convocation took place on Monday, September 13 and more than 100 students, faculty and staff members were in attendance.
DJ Schier, the College’s director of student affairs, hosted the event, which began with a prayer that was read by Daniella Herman.
Following, Villa Maria’s president, Dr. Matthew Giordano, addressed the students.
“Today is about affirmation,” began Dr. Giordano. “When I used to teach writing, I’d get a lot of students who said they hated writing and would say, “I’m just not a writer.” I’d reply that they write, all the time, that they’ve been writing their entire lives, and so they are indeed writers, whether they think of themselves as one or not. They needed to affirm to themselves that they are writers, and in the same way, we are here today to affirm together who we are, who you are, and what you bring to our special community.”
“You are a designer, you are an entrepreneur, you are an artist, you are a performer, you are a therapist, you are a creator, you are a writer, you are a communicator, you are a leader, you are an analyzer, you are a synthesizer, you are a questioner, you are an Achiever, you are a scholar, you are a role model, you are a survivor, you are an explorer, you are a struggler, you are a peacemaker, you are a caregiver, you–you are a gift.”
Dr Giordano concluded, “You are a Villa Viking. WE are Villa Vikings. I’m so glad your talent has taken you here.”
Tommy McClam, who is the Say Yes Buffalo Senior Director of Boys and Men of Color Initiative, spoke to the audience next. Mr. McClam, who is a graduate of Buffalo Public Schools and a first-generation college student, encouraged students to look at college as more than an education.
“Get involved, give back, form relationships,” he said. “Take advantage of faculty, form relationships with the staff, get the notes, ask the hard questions.”
Before concluding, McClam specifically addressed the young men of color in the room, reminding them again to get involved and become active members of the College community.
Next to speak was Nyles Moore. Nyles is a 2020 graduate of the College’s animation program and was the recipient of the highest honor at graduations, the Blessed Mary Angela Student Award. Since his graduation, Nyles has been working as a teaching artist at Squeaky Wheel Buffalo and as a freelance artist.
“It’s easy to get lost in your work,” he told the current students. “But this is a journey, and you don’t want your story to be, ‘I’m stressed.’ Make friends and get involved. Help each other make it happen.”
Nyles’ speech was followed by similar remarks from a current student, Emmalee Lowe. Emmalee is a senior interior design major who serves the college as a student ambassador and an orientation leader. She is an Honors student, a Dean’s List recipient, a member of the national scholastic honors society, Delta Epsilon Sigman. In addition, Emmalee was named the Outstanding Student in Interior Design in 2021 and is the president of Villa Maria’s student-run interior design club. This year, Emmalee won the Design Excellence Award from the ASID New York Upstate-Canada East Chapter.
“If you’re like me, you’re nervous, enthusiastic, overwhelmed and excited,” she began. “Each emotion is daunting, but it proves that you want to be here and will put in the work. Luckily for you, you choose Villa, and you’ll have a community, so you’ll be loved and cared for. At Villa, everyone knows your name and what you’re doing, so get involved and enjoy every part of this experience. Before you know it, you’ll be a senior trying to figure out the rest of your life. Take the leap of faith, join the club, become the president. There will be lots of early mornings and even more late nights. But people aren’t lying when they say these are the best years of your life.”
Following Emmalee’s heartfelt message, students received a commemorative Villa Maria keychain and a voucher for lunch on the College in the dining hall. Finally, they were invited to sign the Villa Way Pledge.
The Villa Way Pledge is a promise to live out the College’s core values, while building meaningful relationships, working together, and sharing knowledge across campus. The pledge reads as follows:
“We pledge to live out our core values. We will practice the Felician Sisters’ core values in all our interactions. We will foster compassion, justice, peace, and respect for human dignity. We will hold each other accountable. We will develop effective relationships based on trust, respect, and authenticity. We will listen to each other. We will provide each other information we need to work well together. We will celebrate successes, big and small. Villa is a home, and we strive to live out the Villa Way.”
Irelis Reiner closed out the formal ceremony with a prayer, and the Villa community departed with the intention of continuing the event’s positivity throughout the year.