The University of Massachusetts Amherst

CHC Inducts Over 700 Students in 20th Anniversary Ceremony

CHC 20th Anniversary Pin affixed to inductees at the end of the event

Students, family, friends, and faculty gathered for the 2019 Commonwealth Honors College Induction Ceremony, a significant event during what marks the 20th anniversary year of the Honors College. Over 700 first-year and transfer students were welcomed into the Honors College on Friday evening, August 30, after moving into their dorms earlier that day.

With lively musical performances from the UMass Jazz Quartet at the beginning and Doo Wop Shop a cappella group at the end of the ceremony, student groups joined faculty in welcoming first-year students to the Commonwealth Honors College. Among those who spoke at the ceremony were Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, Provost John McCarthy, and Gretchen Gerzina—Dean of the Commonwealth Honors College.

“This is perhaps the only time in your life when every day you’re surrounded by peers from around the world who share your commitment to rigorous academic exploration,” Subbaswamy said. “Of equal importance, each one of you contributes a unique perspective to this robust intellectual environment.”

The keynote speaker for the event was Deputy Chancellor and Chief Planning Officer Steve Goodwin, who provided some words of wisdom when it comes to defining success.

“Success is not a place you get to and say, ‘Okay, I’m done, I’m a big success now,’” Goodwin said. “Success is the process of continually striving to get to where you want to be in your life.”

“Success is not the destination, success is the ride. Enjoy the ride,” Goodwin concluded.

The speech that stood out most to some Honors inductees came from the event’s student speaker, Makhai Dickerson-Pells. Drawing from his own experiences as a CHC student, Dickerson-Pells reassured inductees that struggling, and even failing, is a part of the learning experience.

“Of course, sometimes you will face barriers or hiccups. You will get turned down, you will go to the wrong places, or show up to something on the wrong day. You will fail sometimes,” Dickerson-Pells said. “Use those moments as growing opportunities. Some of the best learning comes from failure. Be proud of those moments, accept those challenges, and know that you’re still great students. You’re Honors students. You are not failing, but simply learning a lesson.”

Inductees of Commonwealth Honors cited how Dickerson-Pells’ speech impacted them.

“Being a student and hearing from a student, it just seemed really relatable,” said inductee Danny Arregoces.

Other speakers at the event were Associate Professor Luis A. Marentes and Associate Provost for Data Analytics Ann Marie Russell. Both expressed the ability to find a passion at UMass.

The Doo Wop Shop had the pleasure of following up faculty and student speeches, serenading the crowd with hits such as “Oops I Did It Again” by Britney Spears, “These Arms of Mine” by Otis Redding, and “I’m A Believer” by Smashmouth.

Following the musical performance, students affixed themselves with commemorative 20th-anniversary Commonwealth Honors pins, marking their official entry into the Honors College.

The Commonwealth Honors Induction ceremony concluded with a thank-you ceremony of sorts, as new inductees were given a moment to show their appreciation for those who helped them get to this point.

Whether it be for the academics, research opportunities, or to continue a family tradition, Commonwealth Honors students expressed their excitement about joining a community of scholars.

“Getting to be in a community that’s really focused on learning is big for me,” said Kate, a freshman biology major.

“I’m excited to meet and interact with like-minded people and like-minded, motivated students,” added freshman Alexa Varlamos.