Induction Ceremony, Ana Victoria Morales '14
Good Afternoon Class of 2017. On behalf of our student body, I gladly welcome you to our Denison community. My name is Ana Victoria Morales, and today—aside from congratulating you on making it here—I would like to share with you a bit of my story.
I am a first-generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic. When I am not here on this beautiful campus, I reside with my family in Lawrence, Mass. I attended Lawrence High School, and before I came to Denison, I was deeply involved in my community. I worked two jobs and was committed to my education, graduating in the top 10 percent of my high school class. I did all of this with the vision that one day I would attend college.
In the final year of my high school career, I stumbled upon a great opportunity: the POSSE scholarship program. This program takes inner-city student leaders and grants them full scholarships to attend liberal arts institutions just like ours. When this opportunity was presented to me, I jumped at it and went through the interview process. To my surprise, 60 other students and I were chosen out of 1,600 interviewees to receive the full tuition scholarship. When I received the phone call informing me that I would be attending Denison University, I screamed. I ran to my mom with tears in my eyes and said, “Mom, I am going to college!” I felt like I had just won the lottery, and I understood that my life was about to change drastically.
That summer I did all that I could possibly do to prepare myself for college, but when I arrived, it turned out that there was nothing I could have possibly done to prepare myself for this new journey. I said my goodbyes to my family and began meeting my peers and participating in the orientation programs. It wasn’t until my second week of college, when I was fully settled in, that it hit me. It was the first time in my life that I did not have to worry about anything other than my personal wellness and education. I remember reflecting on my surroundings, on this new scholarly community of which I was now a part, and thinking that if a utopia was possible, I had found one.
In the words of Dr. Mulford Sibley, a political science professor from the University of Minnesota, “Utopia tries to relate apparently disparate elements in human existence to one another. It ties them together to show how they’re related. It gives us a vision of the whole that is more than the sum total of its parts. Without that vision, then we have no guidance as to where we think we should go or what we think we should do. We simply stumble.”
Here at Denison, in my utopia, I have experienced something similar to this quote’s description. I became involved in various clubs and began intently listening to my peers. It was then that I discovered that my friends, with whom I shared my utopia, had their own vision of their college experience and saw themselves fitting into our community differently. I realized that, in a fascinating way, we all yearned to be connected to each other on a more personal level than roommates or classmates. With this vision in mind, a group of more than 50 of our peers ran a campaign with me for student body president with the goal of reconnecting our community. That is where the vision of my personal utopia began to include not only my ideas, but also those of my peers, and right before our eyes, we were taking on leadership of the community that we all share and love. And that connected community, that utopia we are striving to create, is why I can stand before you, class of 2017, as your student body president.
Before I conclude my speech, I wish a few things for you as you enter your first year here at Denison. I wish for you to reflect on your personal experiences at Denison and take note of how they influence our community as a whole. I wish for you to be courageous and challenge yourself, even if you might fail, because fear will stand in the way of your opportunities. Lastly, I hope that you will always speak your mind, especially when you’re afraid no one is listening, because your opinions and ideas are valuable.
Class of 2017, you have earned the privilege to be sitting here today, and there are many opportunities before you. The biggest challenge is deciding what to do first. So today I ask you to join me in empowering each and every one of our peers, because we can always be greater than our expectations. All of this may sound utopian, but without this ideal hope, all of our educational and personal dreams will cease to exist. After all, a liberal arts education is about nothing, if not about hope for the future!
Class 2017: Congratulations and welcome.