Niagara University professors care about their students. That was at the heart of the message delivered by Ed Hutton during Niagara University’s 13th annual New Student Convocation, held today in the Gallagher Center.
The New Student Convocation, a Niagara tradition, is considered to be a bookend to commencement, and an opportunity for new students to develop a true connection to the university. It also provides a chance for parents to share in an important transition in the lives of their sons or daughters.
Hutton, an associate professor of finance and economics and the recipient of NU’s 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award, encouraged the freshmen and new transfer students to develop relationships with faculty members. He reiterated that Niagara professors are not only experts in the subjects they teach, they are experts at teaching those subjects to students. They take their roles as instructors seriously, informed by outstanding scholarship.
We are energized, we are enthusiastic and we are passionate about being professors,” Hutton said. “And we are especially passionate about being your professors.”
Following Hutton’s remarks, the privilege of addressing the assemblage as student body president belonged to Nicholas Palisano.
Palisano, a senior biochemistry major from North Tonawanda, N.Y., recounted the advice his parents left him with when he was a doe-eyed Niagara freshman back in the fall of 2012.
“Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t fall in love. And don’t be that kid,” they told him.
“I’m here today to tell you that I broke every one of those rules,” Palisano said Friday, “and so should you.”
Palisano explained that Niagara University is a special place, where students are nurtured, educated and empowered to grow as individuals.
“No one is a stranger at Niagara. You can find a familiar face anywhere you look. There will always be a friendly face there to chat with you,” Palisano advised.
“And you should fall in love,” he continued. “Fall in love with your coursework. Fall in love with the club you just joined or the Division I sport you play. Become passionate about that research project or that paper you were just assigned.
“Fall in love with Niagara and Niagara will love you.”
For the new students, the college experience starts with a seven-week freshman seminar called Niagara University Beginnings. The program is designed to help students navigate their first semester at college, and also to encourage them to realize the full potential of their NU education.
“We want to see you earn your degree in four years, for sure. But we also want to see you thrive and find your passion,” stated Dr. Abigail L. Levin, who introduced NUB to the students with faculty program co-coordinator Dr. John Keller.
“At NU, we don’t just prepare you for a job. We prepare you for a life, a career, a calling,” Dr. Levin emphasized.
The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., the 26th president of Niagara University, challenged the students to “squeeze the juice out of the Niagara experience” by getting involved whenever and wherever possible, especially in ways that fulfill the Vincentian mission of helping those in need. He spoke about the six current NU students who spent their summer vacation serving the poor at a Haitian school founded by Edward J. Brennan, a 1978 alumnus and university trustee.
“They learned the great truth that’s at the heart of what God calls us to do in our lives, where we can take our gifts, our personal abilities, and put them toward the service of those in need. That’s what I challenge you to do each and every day,” remarked Father Maher.
Hutton estimated that by the time the freshmen graduate, they will have spent 1,800 hours immersed in classes at Niagara. However, he cautioned them not to delay their work toward becoming representative Niagarans.
“(That) isn’t something you start when you graduate from here or when you get your first job,” Hutton said. “It starts now – 3:09 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 28 – and lasts for the rest of your lives.”
Palisano put it another way: “This your time to be that kid, so take advantage of all Niagara has to offer.”