The Catholic University of America

Sept. 10, 2014

Dean Addresses Class of 2018 at Convocation

  The academic procession at the Class of 2018 Convocation

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At Catholic University’s annual Convocation, held Sept. 10 in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, first-year students were formally received into the academic community.

Andrew Abela, dean of the School of Business and Economics, delivered the Convocation’s main address, titled “One Small Change.” He began his address with a story about the 18th-century French philosopher Denis Diderot.

Diderot was a bit of a “slob,” who wore the same bathrobe every day, according to Abela. When a friend finally gave him a new robe, Diderot realized that it made the chair he sat in look shabby, so he had to get a new chair. The new chair made the shelves look shabby, so he had to get new shelves. Eventually, Diderot ended up with a whole new apartment.

This, Abela said, was an example of how one small change led to a much bigger one. He recalled several such examples during his address, conveying stories of former students and big name corporations. For Abela, the best example of how a small change led to a big impact was Christ.

“When Christ came to Earth, he was very small, very weak,” said Abela. “Have you ever wondered why he didn’t come in more like a wizard in The Hobbit? With an explosive presence?”

Abela recalled how Christ spread the word of God and eventually rose from the dead.

“If you rose from the dead, wouldn’t you want to make a big deal of it? … But He didn’t. That’s not His way. He did things the small way that lead to big changes. Christ can touch us in small ways in our everyday lives and that can lead to big changes.”


Andrew Abela

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To conclude, Abela offered the Class of 2018 some advice.

“You can become jaded,” he said. “You give up and settle for less. The way to avoid this is to make one small change to build confidence.”

Todd Lidh, assistant dean of undergraduate studies and director of the First-Year Experience, continued on the theme of change.

Classes are the “embodiment” of change, and these classes are meant to give students “a different way of experiencing the world,” he said.

As a reminder that change is a never-ending journey, Lidh pointed to the academic deans and administrators.

“All of the people sitting on this stage are still changing and growing,” he said.

At the end of his remarks, Lidh referenced a popular quote usually attributed to Gandhi. Although Lidh pointed out that this attribution was false, he felt a slight tweak in the quote could apply to the ceremony’s theme of change.

“Be the change you wish to see in yourself,” he said.

President John Garvey and Provost James Brennan also spoke at the ceremony.

“You came here to learn,” Garvey said. “We provide the teachers, classrooms, libraries, and community of friends, but you have to bring desire. You have to want to learn.”

One of the responsibilities of the University, Brennan said, was to “introduce you to the journey of self-discovery” because “learning is a lifelong process.”

After the Convocation, students gathered on the south steps of the Basilica for a Class of 2018 photo.




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