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‘Go ahead, start dreaming’: Spring Convocation 2014 welcomes 80 new students

by Solvegi Shmulsky

PUTNEY, Vt. - What can bring 80 college students out on a frigid Vermont Saturday morning? A ceremony that launches their new semester at Landmark College.

On Saturday, January 25, 2014, the College held its traditional convocation event at the packed Greenhoe Theater in the Fine Arts Building. Convocation, from the Latin “coming together,” is a semi-annual ceremony where students, families, faculty, and staff celebrate the beginning of a new academic endeavor. Landmark alumna Syndey Ruff (pictured) told the new students to “Go ahead, start dreaming,” which captured the sentiment of the morning.

Speakers represented all corners of the College community—from students and alumni to faculty and staff. “You are at a progressive, enlightened college,” said Dr. Peter Eden, president of Landmark College. “There’s tremendous diversity here—and that is our greatest strength.”   

What is the benefit of diversity? With an analogy from the field of genetics, Dr. Eden explained that individual diversity, which refers to the myriad of learning styles at Landmark College, creates a strong institution. “In genetics we call it ‘hybrid vigor,’ the blending of traits and types to yield a stronger, more adaptive organism.”

In keeping with the theme of diversity, current student Emily Carey, who hails from the West Coast, spoke next. “I’m from San Diego, where it doesn’t get below 60 degrees, and when I came to Landmark College for the first time last winter it was minus-nine degrees,” she said. “I’m still here a year later in the dead of winter—that tells you how I feel about this College.” Carey reassured new students that they could handle the bumps they will face: “You are here because you are smart and full of potential.”

Addressing students from an alumni perspective was 2006 graduate Sydney Ruff, who is now assistant director of admissions at the College. Ruff, who has a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and master’s degree from Simmons College, described a history of learning challenges that marked her academic life.

“When my parents first told me about Landmark, I was angry because I didn’t want to see myself as having an LD,” said Ruff. “But then something crazy happened—I liked it!” She described feeling comfortable in a learning environment for the first time. To the new students, she said, “faculty and staff get us here, and the biggest thing I learned is that I can do anything I want.”

Underscoring the optimism of Carey and Ruff‘s speeches, an energetic group of about 40 blue-clad student leaders gathered on the stage to be introduced by Michael Luciani, Landmark College dean of students. Luciani encouraged new students to plug in to college life. “You are Landmark Sharks,” said Luciani, “You are powerful, fierce, and always moving forward.”

Wrapping up the ceremony, Professor of English Lesle Lewis and Academic Dean Dr. Adrienne Major represented academics—the focal point of Landmark’s unique educational model. In addition to the paper degrees and transcripts to be earned, Major asked new students to look toward the intangible benefits of their education, such as the confidence, strength, and compassion that resonated in the speeches of Carey and Ruff. She explained the significance of the coin that new students would receive from the president at the close of the ceremony. She said, “This coin is a symbol of all that we believe you can achieve here.”

Finally, amidst clapping and a standing audience, 80 new students walked up to the stage to receive their coins and a handshake from President Eden. Lunch and a reception followed in the dining hall, and many students said goodbye to their families in order to prepare for the new semester.

Landmark College was the first institution of higher learning to pioneer college-level studies for students with dyslexia. Today Landmark College, offering two and four-year degree options, a graduate-level certificate in universal design with technology integration, and summer programs for students who learn differently, is a global leader in integrated teaching methods for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, ADHD, and ASD. Students, faculty, and other professionals from all over the world are drawn to Landmark College for its innovative educational model—designed through research and practice to help all students who learn differently become confident, self-empowered, and independently successful learners.

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