St. Olaf College | News

Virtual Opening Convocation

A new academic year at St. Olaf College is officially underway. In a break from our normal routine, classes for the 2020-21 school year began three weeks early and will conclude before Thanksgiving.

On Thursday, August 20, 2020, the college hosted a Virtual Opening Convocation to commemorate the return of students on campus. View the entire Virtual Opening Convocation online.

Student Government Association President Melie Ekunno ’21 charged her fellow students — those living on campus, at home, and abroad — to think about what they will get out of the coming year. She shared her personal experience of arriving on campus, fatigued from high school, and how important it was for her to open up and begin to enjoy college.

“I realized how quickly the college experience zooms past and I decided to begin to collect experiences,” Ekunno said. “And this brings me to my point: The world is full of experiences and opportunities, but there are too many that you can only experience here and now.”

Melie Ekunno ’21The world is full of experiences and opportunities, but there are too many that you can only experience here and now.

“So whether you want to be here or you wish you were someplace far away,” she said, “I implore you today to make a commitment to be intentional about your time here. To be intentional about your St. Olaf education and the Oles you will meet.”

Ekunno also took time with her message to acknowledge systems of inequality, the history of Native Americans disinherited from their land, and every student who is unable to be present on campus due to health concerns.

Professor of Religion, Philosophy, and Asian Studies Anantanand Rambachan delivered the Opening Convocation address titled “Darshan: The Challenges of Seeing the Divine in All.”

“Professor Rambachan brings deep learning and a profoundly humane approach to the questions of interreligious understanding and peace,” said Provost and Dean of the College Marci Sortor said in her introduction. “His work and teaching provide an opportunity for all of us to take part in a worldwide discussion of great importance.”

Rambachan’s speech focused on equality through “divinity abiding in all hearts.”

He quoted Hindu texts which offer “some truth, some light, in these times of daunting challenges, fear, and despair.”

“Divine inclusivity is indeed the source of human dignity,” he said. “But this truth invites us to an even deeper way of seeing human beings. It summons us to encounter each other with reverence and an awareness of the sacred.”

Opening Convocation is a rite and tradition of all St. Olaf students on beginning their academic journey. This year, more than ever, our students will be immersed in learning — about each other, about the world, and (of course) about their chosen subjects in the classroom.