March 4, 2010
Kittredge Hall was transformed into a Harry Potter-like setting as students celebrated their choice of majors at the annual Declaration Dinner on Tuesday night.
WOOSTER, Ohio - A bewitching cast of characters gathered at Hogwarts Dining Hall (a.k.a. Kittredge Hall) Tuesday night to mark a landmark event in the academic lives of sophomores at The College of Wooster. Everyone from Professor Minerva McGonagall (Denise Bostdorff, professor of communication and associate dean for the class of 2012), who served as mistress of the ceremony, to Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Wooster President Grant Cornwell), who delivered the keynote
address, was on hand as students from the class of 2012 celebrated the declaration of their major field of study.
Other dignitaries included Molly Weasley (Heather Fitz Gibbon, Dean for Faculty Development), Rita Skeeter (Nancy Grace, professor of English), Rubeus Hagrid (Kurt Holmes, Dean of Students), Professor Sybill Trelawney (Claudia Thompson, professor of psychology), Nearly Headless Nick (James Warner, associate professor of economics), and about a dozen more - all in full costume.
Bostdorff, who planned and organized the Harry Potter-themed event with students Kelsey Bridges, Scott Merrifield, Sage Nenyue, and Blain Tesfaye, and Administrative Assistant Karen Parthemore, addressed the group with a well-refined British accent. "The declaration of a major is a celebratory event, but it is also just one point in your college trajectory," she said. "Over the next two years and two months, you will have opportunities to hone your skills as a student, to explore internships and campus activities, to reflect on your spiritual beliefs, to delve deeply into your major, to establish new friendships, and to expand your horizons beyond the Wooster campus."
President Cornwell reflected on Wooster's common mission to engage in the timeless and yet perennially relevant business of liberal inquiry. "There is no undertaking more noble, and none that so usefully serves the goal of living well," he said.
The students were grouped by major and assigned to places at long tables (similar to those described in the Harry Potter fantasy novels) where they shared their stories with one another. "I came to Wooster thinking I would major in chemistry, but my father suggested neuroscience, so I thought I would check it out," said Elysse Wadman of Greenfield, Mass. "I went to an information session, and it sounded interesting, so I decided to go in that direction."
Mark Banks of Youngstown, Ohio, has always had an interest in psychology and a desire to help others, so his choice was less complicated than it was for some of his classmates. "I'm thinking I might want to pursue clinical psychology after graduation," he said. Also declaring psychology as a
major was Amanda Koehn of Burton, Ohio, who admitted it was a tough decision, but that she thought the subject matter looked interesting.
At the other end of the hall sat a cluster of philosophy majors, including Christopher Howe of North Sutton, N.H., who expressed considerable confidence in his choice. "It suits my skill set," he said. "I like class discussions and readings. I also like the courses that are offered." Maria
Millan of Mexico was a little more hesitant. She paused briefly before explaining that she took Introduction to Philosophy with Professor Henry Kreuzman, and "it just clicked."
After a hearty meal - topped off with homemade chocolate frogs as a take-home treat - President Cornwell described the Wooster experience as a liberal education of uncommon quality. "More is demanded of you than of your peers at other institutions, and as a result, you leave here with something more," he said. "The world is a complex place, filled with problems to be solved, things to be done, good to be achieved. As you peer into the mess your elders have created, you may wonder what you are inheriting and how you will fare.
"My own belief is that there is no better time to be a sophomore," added Cornwell. "I believe that you are witnessing a fundamental paradigm shift in the national and global economies. Periods of transition between paradigms are always filled with turmoil and confusion. You, however, are positioned to witness the turmoil, study it, seek to understand it, all the while preparing
yourself to leap into the fray - the new fray - upon graduation."
Cornwell went on to remind the students that in choosing a major they are not choosing a career, but instead declaring their passions and proclaiming their intellectual identity. He also warned them about being overly influenced by others, but instead to "choose the self you are becoming...what people choose tells us who they really are."
In closing, Cornwell urged the students to throw themselves into the choice they have made with a mixture of reflection and abandon. "Explore, experiment, be open to change, but be guided by what you love," he said. "If you do this, you will not fail."
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