Honors College Welcomes New Students and New Chancellor at 2023 Induction
By Nina Prenosil; Photos by Myles Braxton, Matt Medeiros, and Eva Trainer
Each year the Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) welcomes its new students at the Honors Induction Ceremony. The ceremony marks the start of what we at the Honors College believe to be the years that will inspire change and ignite passions amongst enrolled students. Hosted this year in Frederick C. Tillis Performance Hall at the Bromery Center for the Arts, students and their families gathered with new Chancellor Javier Reyes, Dean Castañeda, as well as friends of the college and faculty and staff, for their first Honors College event together at UMass Amherst.
Before the ceremony commenced, Chancellor Reyes took a moment to speak with me and three other Honors College student staff and shared his thoughts with us:
“I am as excited as the students are today, it is also my first year here,” he explained
I spoke to students as they entered the Induction Ceremony and all shared similar sentiments about the start of their college experience, excitement for their new chapter of life and eagerly awaiting the start of the next four years.
Genevieve Bartlett, an incoming first-year nursing major, said she is most excited about the education she will receive and getting involved in clubs and intramural sports. Melissa Moriarty, parent of incoming English major Sarah Moriarty, reflected on the opportunities and changes awaiting her daughter:
“It’s the next chapter of her life… I’m excited for her to continue all of the learning she’s been doing throughout high school and finding out all of her different interests and exploring all of the different parts that make her her.”
As the minutes dwindled down until the start of the ceremony, it was evident that excitement was in the air. The dean of Commonwealth Honors College, Mari Castañeda, welcomed the Class of 2027 and their families by inviting the students to congratulate each other on their acceptance into the college, and the start of their journey as Honors students. Dean Castañeda spoke about how the world is rapidly changing and she believes that Honors students will be at the “forefront of adapting to our new realities and utilizing this moment as an opportunity to create positive change”.
The Honors College not only welcomed in a new class, but a new chancellor as well, and his admiration for the campus community was evident when Dean Castañeda introduced the university's new Chancellor, Javier Reyes, to share his first-ever speech to the Honors College community.
Reyes shared that he himself is a product of honors education, and wanted the students to know they will not regret their decision, as it will help change the world. Although this is Reyes’ first year as chancellor, he shared how he has already seen so much excellence amongst the community. He spoke of his recent visit to the College of Natural Sciences, where he witnessed undergraduate students working alongside faculty and PhD students on advanced laboratory work. Chancellor Reyes also explained to the audience his confidence in the Honors College, because it is clear that the array of hands-on experiences allows students to already address social issues even as undergraduates.
The Honors College also invited a student speaker, Colby Myers, to discuss his honors experience. As a senior studying psychology, Myers shared how changing what you study, and changing your interests, is all a part of the experience — and reassured students that this is expected. He spoke about his academic changes, and how those decisions led him to where he is today and he couldn’t be more grateful. Myers then shared his final message to the Class of 2027:
“I can assure you that you will be excellent and there is so much on the road ahead of you. I can also assure you that you do not need to search for ways to be excellent but instead, be excellent through your thoughts, your words, and your actions.”
Jose LaSalle, who graduated from the university as an electrical engineering major in 2016, was the alumni speaker at the induction ceremony. LaSalle has gone on to find success as the founder and CEO of the start-up florrent, which designs and builds the next generation of high-energy density ultracapacitors powered by hemp grown by BIPOC farmers. LaSalle reflected on the impact and challenge of an Honors education. He recommended students settle on a handful of "non-negotiables" that are things a student does as self care.
"It can be getting 8 hours of sleep, 30 minutes of exercise every day, journaling, playing music, or quality time with family and friends. I'd encourage you to pick 2-3, and honor that agreement with yourself to live by that. It will be a gift to you over time, I promise," LaSalle explained.
Lorraine Cordeiro, director of the Center for Research on Families and professor of Nutrition, wrapped up the Induction Ceremony by expressing her love and gratitude for the Honors College community. Cordeiro, herself a mother who had dropped her son off earlier in the day at his dorm to begin his first year at UMass Amherst, shared her emotions with the family members in the audience and assured all of the new students and their families that here at CHC they are in good hands.
Induction concluded with the the Commonwealth Honors College Pinning Ceremony. The students were asked to hand their pin to a family member or friend so that they could officially welcome them to the start of their journey at the honors college.
The UMass Minuteman Marching Band played the famous “fight song” and the newly pinned Honors students filed out onto the cool August night, ready to embark on their new adventure.