By Amaya Morales
FDU’s 79th annual Academic Convocation, like classes, was virtual this year, streamed for all on YouTube.
The ceremonies revolved around the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic with a glimpse of hope for a future together on campus. Three awards were given out to exemplary members of the FDU community and new faculty members were welcomed.
The 37- minute event streamed live on FDU’s home page Wednesday, Aug. 26, a week and a day after classes began. The streamed event received a total of 78 views as of Wednesday evening.
The convocation started with Dr. Gillian Small, the university provost, welcoming everyone. She invited Jasmine Latimore, a junior from the Florham campus, to sing the national anthem.
Small welcomed new faculty members and introduced President Capuano to speak.
“Regardless of what has happened with the pandemic and regardless of what comes next, I know we are ready for the challenges that lie ahead. And I know we will come out stronger and more united than ever,” Capuano said.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Bojana Beric-Stojsic. She is the director of the master’s in public health program and associate professor of public health in the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
Beric-Stojsic’s speech kept the FDU community hopeful during the COVID-19 pandemic by including examples from past infectious diseases like smallpox and Ebola.
“Challenging times are often inspirational — generating hope and strength; generating resilience equals the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness,” Beric-Stojsic said.
Following the keynote address were the University Distinguished Faculty Awards. First recognized was Ernest “Bub” Kovacs – associate professor of administrative science – for his service as “a tireless ambassador for lifelong learning and an advocate for adult students at FDU.”
Kovacs talked about his journey in education. Much of his speech focused on his years spent working in higher education — over 50 years of service.
In the words of Winston Churchill, Kovacs said “you make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” This is his motto as he has worked in four institutions, FDU being his last.
The next recipient was Peter Burkholder, Ph.D., and professor of social sciences.
Burkholder was awarded for research and scholarship. He has a vast amount of research experience and teaching.
He gave a brief speech about how peers can influence college learning. In his speech, Burkholder said, “students who want to learn in college need to choose their friends wisely.”
While professors and classroom experiences can factor in successful learning, Burkholder said that a student’s friend group can greatly influence them.
Stacie Lents, associate professor of theater, won the faculty award for teaching. She has used innovative ways for students to learn over Zoom.
She used virtual breakout rooms for scene partners to rehearse together. She also developed a way for new applicants to audition on video and several Zoom experiences for Discover Your Major Day for Theater.
“Not only do our artists inspire and challenge me, but they teach me to do and be better,” Lents said about her students.
Provost Small closed the convocation by thanking the virtual audience and wishing everyone a successful and academic year.
In the last few minutes of the event, four student leaders briefly speak about their roles in the FDU community. These include seniors Maame Mensah, Student Government Association and Black Student Union president, and Gabby Sesin, president of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority, from the Metropolitan campus.
Senior Mia Michaelides and junior Shalin Mehta from the Florham campus also briefly spoke.
You can view the full transcript here.
Virtual convocation ceremony available on YouTube.