At New Ceremony, a New President Greets New Students

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Dartmouth leaders welcome Class of 2027 to the Big Green family.

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President Sian Leah Beilock talks to students.
President Sian Leah Beilock, who started at Dartmouth in June, welcomes the new students and their family members at Memorial Field on Wednesday. (Photo by Katie Lenhart)
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Memorial Field became a Big Green welcome mat late Wednesday afternoon as, heralded by a brass quintet, a crowd of about 2,000—mostly incoming students and parents—filed into the stands for a welcome ceremony.

Under mostly sunny, breezy skies, President Sian Leah Beilock and others advised students how to make the most of their Dartmouth experience.

“I feel such a special bond with you,” said President Beilock. “After all, we’re starting this Dartmouth journey together. As you well know, I’m new to Dartmouth and the Upper Valley, and I bet we’re feeling some of the same things in our excitement around our first days. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably also experiencing a little bit of self-doubt.”

A cognitive scientist who studies why people choke under pressure in such fields as business and sports, Beilock assured incoming students that feeling anxiety and stress at the threshold of a new chapter in life is not only normal—it lays the groundwork for success.
 

“Remind yourself that being uncomfortable is the surest sign of how you learn,” she said. “You were selected from an amazing population of students because you have something totally unique to offer. And research shows that when you get great people who feel like they belong with different lived experiences at the table, that’s when creativity happens. That’s when knowledge is sparked. That’s when you have impact.”

Lee Coffin, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid, painted a composite portrait of the highly diverse class whose acceptance letters he had signed using a green pen he waved in the air.

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Members of the Class of 2027 in Memorial Field stands
Members of the Class of 2027 heard from several Dartmouth leaders. (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

“2027’s are a lively eclectic parade of 1,212 curious high achievers, drawn from 975 high schools around the world,” he said. “We welcome a singer-songwriter-zookeeper from upstate New York and a Massachusetts mycologist. A goat shepherd from Ethiopia, a chicken cross breeder from rural Indiana, and a neuro-loving rabbit breeder from central California.”

At the ceremony, which was also livestreamed, Coffin quoted from a few of the biographies submitted by the applicants and said each student has a story to share.

“My advice: avoid assumptions. Your multidimensional backgrounds and perspectives will animate your undergraduate experience in mysterious ways. That’s the magic of college.”

Asking the new students to stand, Coffin symbolically passed the class to Dean of the College Scott Brown, giving Brown a wooden baton which will, in four years, be carried during Commencement.

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Lee Coffin passing baton to Scott Brown on Memorial Field
Admissions Dean Lee Coffin, right, passes a ceremonial wooden baton to Dean of the College Scott Brown. Sitting behind them were, from left, Thayer Dean Alexis Abramson, Provost David Kotz ’86, Vice President for Alumni Relations Cheryl Bascomb ’82, President Sian Leah Beilock, and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Elizabeth F. Smith. (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

Brown addressed his remarks first to parents.

“Some of you may still want to coach, but what your children really need is a fan,” he said. “Cheer on their decisions because ultimately the game is in their hands. And we are partners along the way.”

To students, Brown advised, “Play ‘Class of 27 bingo’. You try to meet everyone in your class. And then most importantly, let them have a chance to get to know you. Getting connected means living offline. Dartmouth is a real-life experience. So step away from your computer, AirPods, iPad, iPhone. Remember, no 5G networking is more powerful than eye contact.”

Also powerful, said Elizabeth F. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, are confidence and curiosity.

“Don’t second guess why you were chosen and don’t cheat yourself,” she said. “I would also ask that you approach this experience with humility. No single individual here or elsewhere is more important than another. Both inside and outside of the classroom, listen to each other, learn from each other, and take care of each other with the highest expectations for your academic careers.”

Words of wisdom and encouragement also came from Student Body Vice President Kiara Ortiz ’24 and Cheryl Bascomb ’82, vice president for alumni relations.

“Cherish the moments of laughter and those late-night conversations over a gourmet packaged ramen dinner,” Ortiz said. “These are the building blocks of friendships, and these will span continents and decades.”

Bascomb urged the students to tap into Dartmouth’s network of helpful alumni.

“Watch and see what happens when you wear a Dartmouth sweatshirt or a Dartmouth ball cap in a large group of people,” she said. “Alumni and other Dartmouth community members will let you know who they are.”

After the ceremony, assembling with their new house communities, students walked along the track, headed to their first official class meeting in Leverone Field House. Zoé Manning ’27, from Honolulu, Hawaii, said she found the ceremony reassuring.

“I was scared at first, but I liked being reminded that we all have the same feelings,” she said. “We’re all nervous, we’re all uncomfortable. But let’s go.”

Loralei Forgette ’27, from Memphis, Tenn., said she’s pleased to be starting her college career as a new president takes office. “So we’re all going through this experience together,” she said.

Charlotte Albright