President's Communications

Messages from President Carey

Friday night another tragedy unfolded in New Rochelle, less than a mile from the Iona College campus. A black man was shot and killed in an altercation with a police officer. This event surely adds to the trauma of our community. Whatever the details of this case, it is yet another reminder that there is no time to wait: we must find better ways to live together, and that takes work.

Education may seem too slow, too pondering, too tame to be the answer. But better education is an essential part of what we need. From universal standards in police training to understanding the historical underpinnings of social, economic, and cultural structures, from the evolution of modern technology to the psychology of personal development, progress will be inadequate without effective education across all sectors of society. In addition to preparing us for careers, an effective education prepares us for responding to difficult situations with insight and an ability to understand alternative points of view; it also makes us alert to the structures of society that dictate so much of our experience.

Those of us in higher education can do more now. For too long, the expertise of the academy has failed to adequately influence public awareness and discourse. We have expertise in criminal justice, sociology, psychology, economics, education, health sciences, risk management, business, and public history as well as the disciplines that help us to understand the human condition — its complexity, its limitations, and its potential — through art and expression. No longer can we attend only to what transpires in our classroom, our academic conference, or our journal publications. Society needs us to engage in the moment, to shape the conversations underway so that we and others learn from them, and to envision a future that moves toward justice and non-violence. At Iona, we will sharpen our focus on the pressing issues of our time, deepen inquiry as a community of learners, and prepare our students to become the leaders of change our society needs.

In focusing on education as a means for social reform, we will not overlook immediate steps we can and must take. We need to speak out, we need to vote, we need to expand our circle of neighbors and friends, we need to resist injustice wherever we encounter it. But these actions will not be sustained if we ignore the difficult work of looking internally to examine what is in our hearts and souls. We must recognize the complexity of feelings, attitudes and biases that influence our actions. We must acknowledge that there are inclinations and emotions, which, left unchecked, can push us in directions we do not want to go. We must understand that being strong means getting better, not holding on to calcified prejudices and dispositions. Strength of character requires constant change through greater self-awareness and personal development—and through the hard work of listening to others. This work is almost impossible without effective education.

Iona College is a community of inquirers committed to the pursuit of truth and justice grounded in faith. With open hearts and a dogged commitment to a better tomorrow, we can make a difference. To start this process, I have reached out to campus leaders over the past several days to begin the conversations and the work we need to do. We will garner the expertise across campus to collaborate on ways we can have the biggest impact on our students, each other, and our community. Anything less would be a betrayal of our calling as educators and as members of the Iona community.

To the Iona Community:

I have been hesitant to write this message. Not because I am unsure about its need, not because I do not share in the outrage and sadness over George Floyd’s murder, not because I do not know that this is another example, in a seemingly endless list, of racially motivated brutality and injustice; certainly not because I believe that the disease of American racism is too complex to tackle. I hesitate because statements like this don’t seem to accomplish much. Much of what I wish to say has been said too many times by others more qualified, and yet our country still suffers and seethes. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to speak out to our community this morning.

This past week I released the highlights of our plan for reopening Iona College for the fall semester in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were able to share that plan because over the past couple of months we have gained a better understanding of COVID-19, of how to mitigate its transmission, and, most importantly, of how to protect as best we can our community. The last few days remind us that we face another chronic pandemic, racism, that demands equal, even greater, attention and resolve, both personally and politically. Just as we have dedicated ourselves to reorganizing our operations in response to COVID-19, we will dedicate ourselves to the hard work required to respond to racial injustice.

As committed and sincere educators, we believe in the power of education to effect change. We tell ourselves that education is the great equalizer, the means to elevate all of us to a higher moral plane. We believe too that we are the drivers of social progress. Our mission statements have always spoken to the pursuit of truth and justice; in more recent times these statements of purpose emphasize and celebrate diversity.

Today, all around us, we see awful evidence that educational missions such as ours are critical for our social and political well-being as well as for our personal development. If these missions are failing to stem the tide of racism or to quell the violence it nourishes, we must rededicate ourselves to the values those missions espouse but find better ways to realize them on our streets, in our neighborhoods, in our cities—and on our own campus and in our own classrooms.

Edmund Rice founded the Christian Brothers 218 years ago to combat discrimination and oppression by bringing the gift of education to the poor people of Ireland. We must honor that mission by being as attentive to the small and large violence of the racism around us, and within us, as we are to the ravages of the novel coronavirus. To call either an invisible enemy is to deny the realities that threaten our common good; to confront these realities with strong hearts and minds is what it means to fight the good fight.

To the Iona College Community:

With the Memorial Day weekend behind us and better news about the trajectory of COVID-19 in our region, we can turn our attention to the summer and fall. In addition to managing the work required to complete the spring semester, our task force has been building plans for how we might return to campus for the upcoming academic year. All of our plans have been developed with the health and safety of our community as the highest priority. We have consulted with public health experts and colleague institutions while attending to CDC and New York State guidelines every step along the way. The plans outlined below are contingent upon New York State approval of in-person classes for the fall semester.

Returning to campus will require significant changes in how we operate, but I am confident the qualities that make Iona a special learning community will be magnified under our new circumstances. We are not simply reacting to the crisis; we are envisioning a new future. Our plans not only incorporate best practices for health and safety, they accelerate our initiatives for innovative pedagogy, student support and community engagement, each of which deepens the Iona mission. We are not merely replacing one mode of course delivery with another; we are integrating the best of both to create dynamic courses to address the issues of our time. We are not just countering each emerging fact with a new policy; we are integrating our response into the curriculum and student learning. We are not simply shoring up institutional operations; we are engaging with the community to provide support to businesses, school children, health care workers and families.

While we are managing expenses carefully to find savings, we are not retrenching. We recently launched a new nursing program and new degrees in entrepreneurship. We formed a campus-wide strategic innovation committee to tap into the creativity residing across campus. Students, faculty and staff are at the forefront of strategic thinking and tactical planning as we reimagine our future.

We know that new facts about the pandemic will continue to surface. We are closely monitoring all information as we work toward a comprehensive operational plan to guide us through the upcoming academic year. As we continue to finalize our course of action, there are time-sensitive highlights we want to share with you now so that you can plan appropriately for the fall semester. Further information to flesh out these highlights will be shared in the coming weeks, and we appreciate your patience as we define specific details.

For scheduling purposes, it is important to note that Iona College will begin its fall semester on August 10, 2020, and end the semester on November 23. Students will not return to campus after the Thanksgiving break. This schedule advances the semester by three weeks to minimize student travel and exposure during the fall semester. If in-person classes are delayed or cancelled by New York State, we will re-evaluate the start date of the academic calendar.

With the exception of courses that are designated as distance learning (DL), all courses will be offered in a hybrid format so that students can take any course, or portions thereof, online or in person. Students or faculty with underlying health conditions should consider using the online option. By preparing courses to be both online and in person, we can accommodate students and faculty who might need to be away from campus during the semester. Moreover, such flexibility will make us ready to transition to full online delivery if circumstances require.

Prior to starting classes, students, faculty and staff will be required to have a test for the COVID-19 virus. We are proud to partner with our neighbors at Montefiore Hospital in New Rochelle to administer tests for members of the Iona community. Antibody tests will also be available for those who want one. We will work with Montefiore throughout the academic year to provide health care related to the COVID-19 virus for our students, faculty and staff. We will follow up shortly with additional information and options regarding testing.

In addition to getting tested prior to starting classes, we will work with all members of the Iona community to monitor symptoms related to COVID-19. Daily temperature checks will be available before entering classes or the workplace. Iona will work with students, faculty and staff to make sure you have the tools required to track symptoms. Students and employees will be called upon to self-isolate and get tested upon manifesting symptoms. CDC guidelines will be followed for addressing symptoms and positive test cases.

Masks will be required in all classes and wherever adequate social distancing is not possible. We will increase spacing in all classrooms and dining halls by 50 percent. Sanitizer will be available and accessible across campus and rooms will be sanitized regularly throughout the day. Entry, egress and stairways in buildings on campus will be organized to maximize spacing and minimize face-to-face exposure. Elevators will be sanitized regularly, and social distancing will be required.

We will reduce occupancy in residence halls to a maximum of two students per room and require social distancing in common spaces. Community bathrooms will be sanitized regularly, and social distancing will be required.

Remote work will continue for staff who can perform their roles from home to increase social distancing in offices.

Once again, we are sharing these highlights so that you can plan accordingly. Many further details for each of these initiatives will be shared in due course. These details will describe protocols for responding to positive COVID-19 cases on campus, procedures for food preparation and distribution, event sizes, campus visitors, athletic competitions and spectators, contact tracing, human resource policies and more. All of these details will be included in the forthcoming comprehensive plan. We appreciate your patience as we collect the data we need to provide the most informative and actionable plan possible.

Let me conclude by sharing an observation of what has transpired over the past two months. The commitment and resilience of the Iona community is akin to what I would describe as a Gael Force. There is a strength building from within as we work our way through this crisis and this strength is the reason we will emerge a better institution. From faculty innovation to administrators working seven days a week, from students thriving in transition to staff who have intensified their focus on the work that needs to be done, a renewed sense of purpose is growing at Iona.

We know that the coming year will test us. There are challenges ahead we can see and others we cannot. As educators, our responsibility is to work for a better future. If we continue to be our best; if we work with each other and for our students; if we are guided by the ideals that infuse our endeavors and lives with meaning – the ideals of seeking truth, working for justice, caring with compassion – the challenges we face will only make us better.

Thank you for your support and dedication.

Sincerely,
Seamus Carey, Ph.D.
President, Iona College

Dear Iona Students and Families,

As we near the end of our virtual semester at Iona College, I am proud of all our community has been able to accomplish. I would now like to provide several important updates as we plan our way through the other end of this pandemic.

First, finals begin today and I want to wish all of our students the best of luck. This week is also Senior Week. The Office of Student Development has prepared some new and exciting ways for our seniors to connect online, and we look forward to sharing in the spirit of celebration that our seniors deserve.

Student Supports
While campus is closed, student support services remain available, and we are encouraged to see so many students taking advantage of them in the virtual format.

  • The Counseling Center continues to provide counseling services and offers virtual walk-in hours for students seeking help or support.
  • Health Services remains available for virtual consultation.
  • The Rudin Center remains available for virtual tutoring.
  • Mission and Ministry remains available for pastoral care, spiritual support, virtual hospitality suppers, and even remote service opportunities.
  • The Gerri Ripp Center for Career Development offers a number of online tools and resources as well as virtual services to help students define and implement their career plans, including new resources for students searching in this challenging job market. Look for messages from careerdevelopment@iona.edu.
  • Students who have not registered for Fall 2020 can contact advising@iona.edu to schedule an appointment or ask any questions. Please register as soon as possible to ensure course availability.
  • Off-Campus and Commuter Services remains available for phone or Zoom meetings if you have any questions or concerns. Email mlsampson@iona.edu to schedule a meeting.
  • Residential Life is accepting housing applications for anyone who is considering moving back to campus next year. Email residentiallife@iona.edu.

Commencement Update

My heart is with our seniors and their families right now. You have worked hard to get to this important milestone in your life, persevering through unprecedented times with characteristic Iona determination. I know this isn’t how you envisioned your time at Iona coming to a close, but you should be incredibly proud.

A virtual Commencement ceremony and conferral of degrees will be held as originally scheduled on May 16 at 11 a.m. for undergraduate and graduate students. You will receive an invitation with the link for viewing this week. This event marks degree conferral as you list degrees on resumes, search for jobs, apply for graduate school or licensing, and much more. We are working hard to put together a high-end video production to honor you. In addition to reading names and conferring degrees, the ceremony will include traditional elements translated to the virtual setting, including performances by student singers and our pipe band, remarks from students, and a keynote address by Maria Bartiromo, FOX anchor and global markets editor. Photo slideshows, the senior video and other highlights of your time at Iona are also in production. Students have all been asked to submit photos and quotes to be included in the Commencement ceremony. Caps and gowns are on their way to you, if you haven’t received them already, and some students may also be receiving honorary cords or stoles. We hope graduates will don them for the virtual Commencement ceremony and tag the College in their social media posts. Anyone with questions or issues with caps and gowns can contact the bookstore at bksiona@bncollege.com.

We are eager to honor your accomplishments in person, too. We will continue to follow CDC and local officials’ guidance regarding in-person gatherings that may affect any plans we put in place. We have a tentative date set for Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, to honor our 2020 graduates with a ceremony on Iona’s campus. Reunion and Homecoming are also that weekend, so our 2020 graduates will be welcomed with full hearts and lots of energy by the alumni they are joining. To be clear, this event is not going to be a congratulations BBQ or simply a toast to the graduates. It will be something distinctive and distinguished, as our graduates deserve. We continue to seek your input on what that special event should look like and include. Students can submit their ideas via our Commencement Portal. Parents and family members can email us at Commencement2020@iona.edu.

Returning to Campus
Beyond the celebrations and events, we are focused wholeheartedly on resuming our in-person teaching and learning. The plan is to open campus and welcome students, faculty and staff back at the start of the fall semester by September 1. This plan will be executed by adhering to protocols and procedures informed by public health experts to ensure the safety of the entire Iona community. We are in close contact with local, state and national public health officials to stay on top of the most up-to-date information. If the virus lingers longer than we anticipate, we are prepared to delay the start of in-person classes for our Fall 2020 semester until October 1. This start date would enable us to offer a full array of courses for the semester by deploying an alternative class schedule and using hybrid courses that blend in-person and online delivery.

As we eye the future, Iona is collaborating with our colleague institutions throughout the region to work toward solutions. I am fortunate to serve on the board of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU). The CICU has formed a task force to develop a Restart Plan for Higher Ed., which will delineate guidelines and best practices for re-opening campuses across New York State in the fall. We will have immediate access to their final recommendations, many of which we are already pursuing.

In any scenario, there are several initiatives underway to ensure the safety of our community. These include:

  • working with Montefiore Hospital to provide priority health care for our students, faculty and staff, including the procurement of testing to control the virus should it emerge;
  • providing personal protective equipment for use during gatherings on campus, including classes, assemblies, and gatherings of multiple people;
  • sanitizing all rooms on a regular basis;
  • installing additional sanitizers throughout campus for easy access and frequent use;
  • rearranging spacing in our classrooms, dining halls, and residence halls to provide the space for safe distancing;
  • updating pedagogical methods to take advantage of hybrid courses that integrate online components into in-person courses;
  • developing alternative course scheduling to increase spacing on campus;
  • providing personal counseling and advising to navigate campus life and to address any needs that arise including anxiety, stress, curricular issues, and spiritual development;
  • updating workout facilities for students to maintain optimum physical health; and
  • careful enforcement of all safety protocols across campus.

I want to thank you for your continued commitment to each other and to our Iona community. I cannot wait to be back together on campus as soon as it is safe and permissible. May God continue to bless you and your loved ones as we pray for the sick and suffering around the world.

Sincerely,
Seamus Carey, Ph.D.
President, Iona College

Dear Iona College Community,

It is just two weeks ago since we decided to advance spring break to keep our community safe in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, we hoped we would be able to return to campus after Easter. Since then our world has changed in ways we could not foresee and have yet to fully comprehend. On Friday, Governor Cuomo issued a 100% shut down of all non-essential businesses starting tonight, Sunday, March 22. As a result, the only staff on campus will be those who are required to perform essential functions such as security, facilities, and IT support. We are working with the state to gain further clarification about other functions that may be deemed essential, and we continue to work closely with public health authorities to protect the members of the Iona community.

These changes have forced us to re-evaluate our plans for the semester. We are about to embark into uncharted territory as we move all of our course offerings to online/virtual platforms for the remaining weeks of the semester. There will be bumps along the way, but we are prepared to provide support and to answer your questions as they arise. We recognize how difficult some of these changes are, and I couldn’t be more proud or grateful for the way the students, faculty and staff of Iona have adjusted to this fluid environment. Your support and concern for each other is inspiring, and the efforts that have been made in order to sustain the academic progress of our students is extraordinary.

In moving classes to online delivery, we are asking faculty and students to stretch beyond the ordinary learning dynamic they are used to. For some, this adjustment will be challenging. It will likely increase anxiety making it difficult to focus on the content of our courses. In order to counter some of the challenges that will arise as a result of this change, students will be able to elect out of the regular grading system and convert to a course pass/fail grading option. Faculty will grade student work as they have always done. Students will have until one week after final grades have been determined at the end of the semester to decide if they want a letter grade or a pass/fail grade recorded on their transcript for each class. In addition to helping students focus on the content of their courses, this approach ensures that student GPAs can improve, but cannot fall as a result of the alternative delivery system we are using to complete the semester. Further details will be provided in the coming weeks.

I want to reiterate to our seniors that we understand how difficult it is for you to miss events that mark your time and accomplishments at Iona. We miss them, too. The activities and events that honor your achievements are among our most rewarding moments as educators. We will do all that we can to provide the appropriate ways to honor you as we move forward. We will be looking to you for the best ideas about how to do so. As we work on these issues, I ask that you remain fully informed about what is transpiring in the world around us so that we are working with a common understanding and realistic expectations about what is possible and prudent.

Iona is a resilient community grounded in the enduring virtues of compassion, understanding, and hope. As the Irish poet Seamus Heaney wrote, “Hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for.” While so much of what we are living through is beyond our control, we can work on what is in our control and know that the outcome of our efforts will be worthwhile. Please follow all protocols to stay healthy. Focus on the work at hand. And, as Brother Cussen reminded me yesterday morning, have faith in providence.

Dear Iona Community,
 
As we have witnessed together, the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications are far-reaching, fluid and evolving – day to day, even hour to hour. At Iona College, our Task Force Response Team has been vigilant in monitoring facts and guidance from health officials and doing everything possible to stay a step ahead in both preventative measures to keep our campus safe, and in our communications to you.
 
Today I am writing to share some important updates regarding how Iona is responding to the most recent developments.
 
All undergraduate and graduate classes will move online for the rest of the semester. Students will not return to campus after the extended spring break. All employees who can work from home are encouraged to do so.
 
College-managed housing will be closed for the remainder of the spring semester. Like most everyone else, we are eager to look ahead towards a return to normalcy, and to the regular rhythms of teaching and learning on Iona’s campus. However, we have made this decision based on guidance from health officials, and driven by our commitment to the health and safety of our Iona community and the greater community.
 
Certainly, there are more details to work through, and we are committed to providing additional guidance as soon as we are able. Please continue to check the frequently asked questions on our webpage dedicated to Coronavirus updates. In the meantime, here is some additional information on what this decision will mean for our Iona community:
 
All classes will be delivered online through the end of the spring semester.

  • All undergraduate classes and Arts & Science graduate classes will begin online on Monday, March 23, and will continue online through the scheduled last day of classes on May 8, 2020.
  • Interim Dean Richard Highfield will contact LaPenta School of Business graduate students and faculty regarding classes continuing online.
  • Faculty will reach out to students in their class via Blackboard and email to provide information on how class content will be delivered, how assignments will be handled, office hours, and general expectations for the class.
  • Students should be in contact with their department chair and/or clinical/internship coordinator to review and plan for completion of required placement hours. The dean’s office will continue to evaluate this on a daily basis. In the event that students are not able to continue with clinical practical experiences, their program leaders will work with them to personalize a plan and to ensure that students’ clinical experiences meet requisite criteria.

Administrative offices and support services will be available in alternative formats.
Iona College remains committed to student success. While all Iona employees will be working from home or in staggered shifts, as a reminder the following offices are available to continue to support students:

Libraries and Information Technology staff will remain available via phone, email, zoom or other on-line support. For technical assistance please contact the Help Desk. Tickets placed in the online help desk system will continue to be processed. Help Desk staff will continue to remotely answer (914) 633-2635 during posted hours. On-line resources are available on the IT Resource pageZoom and teleconferencing information is available here. The librarians are available virtually to assist with your research questions, to help find online resources and all online databases are available. Visit the Library webpage for more information.  
 
All college-sponsored housing is closed.

  • College housing is closed as of noon on Friday, March 20. Residential Life will contact resident students with additional information about move out procedures.  
  • All college housing will remain locked to safeguard students’ belongings.
  • All facilities on campus, including the LaPenta Student Union, Libraries, Fitness Center and Gym are closed immediately.

Iona will offer credits/refunds for room and board.

  • Since the school will not reopen, the college will issue credits or refunds for housing. The net amount will depend on each student’s individual situation based on many factors including class level (Senior, Junior, etc.) outstanding balances, financial aid awards, residential housing award, loans and payment plan balance. 
  • For any unspent meal plan points/dollars, the College will roll over meal plan points for current students to the fall semester.  For graduating students, the College will issue credits or refunds. The net amount will depend on each student’s individual situation based on many factors including class level (Senior, Junior, etc.) outstanding balances, financial aid awards, residential housing awards, loans and payment plan balances. 
  • The College is developing a plan and will provide more information on how this will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Events on campus have been canceled or postponed.

  • All events including admissions tours, information sessions and Accepted Students Days have been canceled or postponed.
  • We recognize the significance of end of the year events such as GAEL Awards, Honors Convocation, Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement. It is too early to decide whether to cancel or postpone these events. We will continue to monitor the facts and will provide updates as soon as decisions are made.

Student Workers
Some student employment, including work study and graduate assistantships, may continue if the job can be performed remotely. Students should contact their supervisors for more details and receive confirmation in writing approving working remotely.  Hours will still be required to be entered into the NextGen system and approved by supervisors. 
 
International Students
International students will be contacted by the office of Student Financial Services and/or the office of International Student Services to confirm their arrangements. International students residing in College housing will also be contacted by the Office of Residence Life.
 
Information and resources
This is a rapidly changing situation that we will continue to monitor closely. For additional information, please visit our website at www.iona.edu/healthupdates and refer to the following reliable resources:

Westchester COVID-19 Testing Hotline: (914) 681-2900
CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
New York State Department of Health Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
World Health Organization Coronavirus COVID-19

Now as always, the health, safety and well-being of the Iona community remains our top priority. Thank you for your continued prayers, compassion and vigilance.

Dear Faculty, Staff and Administrators,
 
As we have witnessed together, the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications are far-reaching, fluid and evolving – day to day, even hour to hour. At Iona College, our Task Force Response Team has been vigilant in monitoring facts and guidance from health officials and doing everything possible to stay a step ahead in both preventative measures to keep our campus safe, and in our communications to you.
 
Today, I am writing to share some important updates regarding how Iona is responding to the most recent developments.
 
All undergraduate and graduate classes will move online for the rest of the spring semester. Students will not return to campus after the extended spring break. All employees who can work from home are encouraged to do so until further notice.
 
Like most everyone else, we are eager to look ahead toward a return to normalcy, and to the regular rhythms of teaching and learning on Iona’s campus. However, we have made this decision based on guidance from health officials, driven by our commitment to the health and safety of our Iona community and the broader community. We will be communicating this to students this afternoon.
 
We recognize that many of us will find ourselves in unexpected territory; some employees are in roles that don’t translate easily to remote working. Other employees may be working from home while also caring for children or elderly relatives. As we navigate these unchartered territories together, we encourage all employees to be in touch with their supervisor to discuss details and confirm expectations. The Provost’s office will be communicating with faculty to determine what adjustments must be made in delivering content online for the rest of the semester.
 
As we all transition to a new mode of working, please know these resources are available to you:

  • Libraries and Information Technology staff will remain available via phone, email, Zoom or other online support. For technical assistance or to have an employee’s desk phone forwarded to their cell phone please contact the Help Desk. Tickets placed in the online help desk system will continue to be processed. Help Desk staff will continue to remotely answer (914) 633-2635 during posted hours. Online resources are available on the IT Resource pageZoom and teleconferencing information is available here. The librarians are available virtually to assist with your research questions, to help find online resources and all online databases are available. Visit the Library webpage for more information.
  • Employees who absolutely must retrieve belongings from the campus may do so on Wednesday, March 18. Please work with your supervisor to make arrangements.
  • In follow-up communications, we will be providing guidance and best practices related to working from home.
  • As a reminder, please continue to take preventative measures to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, including washing hands and avoiding unnecessary close contact with individuals and groups.
  • If you are in Westchester and concerned you may have COVID-19 (coronavirus), there is a Westchester COVID-19 hotline for testing: (914) 681-2900. They will ask for your symptoms to determine if you fit any criteria. If you do they will refer you to the Westchester County Department of Health with a special phone number, where they then will take your information and text you with a date, time and address where you can get tested in a drive-through-like experience.

 
We ask that employees contact their supervisor to confirm their work-at-home status, and that they have the necessary technology to work remotely. All employees working from home are expected to continue fulfilling normal job duties and hours, and to make arrangements at home that support regular work performance and hours. Our goal is to have as many employees as possible working remotely. Some employees may need to continue coming to campus based on their job responsibilities, and in those instances we are developing a schedule to minimize the density at any given time. If you are needed to be on campus you are expected to practice responsible social-distancing measures. Under no circumstance should you leave the house if you are feeling unwell. 
 
Now as always, the health, safety and well-being of the Iona community remains our top priority. Thank you for your continued prayers, compassion and vigilance.

Dear Students,

This COVID-19 pandemic is not something any of us would have chosen to interrupt your college years. This situation is a challenge to all of us as it is to millions of fellow citizens around the world. What will be most distinctive about this experience is how we respond. Your response, thus far, has once again demonstrated why Iona is such a remarkable and strong community. You live by the values of compassion, care, understanding, patience, and resilience. And we are all better off because you do.

There are more challenges in front of us. We will meet these challenges together. We will learn together. We will explore together. We will pray together. And when we return to campus to be together, we will be wiser, stronger, and closer than ever.

With that in mind, I am writing to share some important announcements about how Iona will proceed in the coming days and weeks while taking every precaution to ensure your health, safety and continued academic success.

Online Instruction

  • All Iona College classes will move online beginning Monday, March 23 through April 10. We will continue to monitor the situation, make decisions in the best interest of our community and provide regular updates. At this time, in-person classes are scheduled to resume on Tuesday, April 14. (Iona College is closed for the Easter holiday on Monday, April 13.)
  • During this time, professors will continue to track attendance and be available to you during regular office hours online or via the phone.
  • Please reach out directly to your faculty if you are having any difficulty with the instruction and need extra assistance.
  • If you need additional technical assistance, Libraries and Information Technology staff are available to answer your questions and support you. If you need assistance please contact the Help Desk. Online resources are available on the IT Resource pageZoom and teleconferencing information is available here.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Coronavirus and the College’s overall response and plans, please contact taskforce@iona.edu and we will be sure to respond promptly.

Health, Safety & Well-Being

There remain no known or suspected cases of Coronavirus at Iona College at this time. These actions continue to be taken out of an abundance of caution. That said, we understand and appreciate that the situation can be unsettling, and keeping your academic trajectory on track is of paramount importance. Do not hesitate to contact Student Life at (914) 633-2360 if you need assistance. Please also know that the following student support services remain available to you:

Student Life & Athletics

Separately today, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference announced that it had regrettably canceled all spring sports competitions, practices and other athletic-related activities for the remainder of the 2020 spring semester, commencing March 16. And, as many of you know, other cancelations have already occurred, such as service trips and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Given the nature of this pandemic, we expect there will be additional cancelations of events on campus in the coming weeks and months. Knowing how important these events are to your college experience, these cancelations are not made without careful deliberation. While we recognize that these cancelations are disappointing, we remain committed to making decisions in the best interest of our Iona community, and the broader community’s overall health and safety.

Resident Students

The residence halls will be remain closed until Monday, April 13 at noon. Students previously approved for an extension to remain over Spring Break will need to make alternative arrangements. Students with specific needs or concerns about having to return to collect any belongings should contact residentiallife@iona.edu. Please check your email for additional details from Residential Life.

Stay Connected

We realize that there will be additional questions. Colleges across the country are all grappling with the same challenges, and we are working hard to provide answers as quickly and clearly as possible. As we continue to closely monitor this rapidly evolving and fluid situation, we ask that you stay connected to your email for updates. Information will also continue to be posted on our website at www.iona.edu/healthupdates.

Thank you once again for your resilience, patience and understanding

Dear Faculty, Staff and Administrators,

I understand that the governor’s announcement today may have heightened anxiety in a what was an already stressful situation. While the circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus are fluid, it is important that we remain grounded in the facts as we know them. This will help all of us to do everything possible to support the health and safety of our community while maintaining clarity about expectations in the Iona workplace.

Today, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a 1-mile radius "containment area" around Young Israel of New Rochelle has been enacted, and that the National Guard has been deployed. The National Guard will assist with the important role of delivering food to New Rochelle students who would face food insecurity while their schools are closed, as well as in cleaning efforts and other logistics associated with local prevention efforts, according to city officials.

At this time, please be aware that:

  • Within the containment area, people are NOT contained, just facilities. Traffic can flow, streets are NOT closed, businesses are open.
  • The National Guard has been sent to help distribute food and also to help clean facilities. They are NOT there to stop people from traveling in and out of the area.
  • A satellite testing facility is being set up to increase the availability of testing in New Rochelle.
  • Several schools and houses of worship in the containment area will be closed for two weeks.
  • While Iona College borders the containment area, we were not identified as a campus recommended to close.

As you know, on Monday we advanced the start of spring break by cancelling classes this week. Thankfully, there are still no known or suspected cases of Coronavirus at Iona College at this time. Classes are not scheduled to be back in session until Monday, March 23, with the only exception being graduate business classes which are continuing online uninterrupted.

Over the next two weeks, we are preparing for the start of classes following spring break. These preparations include the possibility of moving classes online if the developments surrounding the Coronavirus prevent students from returning to campus to commence classes. We will do everything possible to ensure a successful spring semester for our students.

While we work to keep everyone safe and prepare for the possibility of delivering courses online, Iona’s administrative operations will remain open. However, if you believe that reporting to work puts your health in jeopardy, or that of someone you live with who is in a high-risk category, please speak to your supervisor to discuss your circumstances. We will work with anyone whose health and well-being is threatened by being at work while the virus is active in the surrounding community. Your supervisor, in collaboration the appropriate member of the president’s cabinet, will assist you in making alternative arrangements. In developing alternative arrangements, supervisors and employees should be clear about expectations and responsibilities, and be sure that everyone has all the necessary technology and resources to carry on their duties from home.

Our Task Force Response Team is continuing to assess the facts and is communicating with city and state officials as this rapidly evolving situation unfolds. We remain committed to following every reasonable protocol and taking all appropriate measures to keep our entire college community safe and healthy. As more information becomes available, we will continue to post updates to our website at www.iona.edu/healthupdates.

Dear Iona College Community,

I understand and appreciate that there is a growing sense of anxiety surrounding the Coronavirus. This anxiety is being fueled by information being spread on newscasts and social media. I ask you to step back from the deluge of information for a moment to think through the facts with me and the protocols that are in place to address our circumstances.

First of all, I want to reassure everyone that there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Coronavirus within the Iona College community at this time. Two employees have self-quarantined. There is no reason to be alarmed. These preventative steps were taken out of an abundance of precaution to protect the Iona community. Neither employee is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms and therefore neither qualifies for Coronavirus testing at this time as per federal and state guidelines. Both will be self-quarantined for the full 14-day incubation period.

I also fully understand that the word ‘quarantine’ sounds frightening. But I want to once again emphasize that everyone here at Iona College is operating out of an abundance of precaution, in keeping with all health official guidance. Given the presence of the virus in another section of New Rochelle, we are on high alert and have been working with city, county and state officials to ensure that we are operating with the most up-to-date information. Fortunately, we have established protocols in place to act quickly, and we have taken all reasonable preventative measures to protect our campus community. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. We are taking this situation very seriously.

For now, all classes, events and activities on campus will continue as usual. As we proceed, we will continue to monitor any and all developments very closely, following all guidelines to coordinate on prevention and, should they become necessary, intervention efforts. We have assembled a Task Force Response Team made up of the provost; chief financial officer; vice president of Student Life; vice president for College Marketing & Communications; the president’s chief of staff, vice president, and Board secretary; director of Human Resources; and general counsel that meets multiple times a day to share information, make informed decisions, and communicate all updates swiftly to the Iona community.

To reiterate from previous communications, these are some of the various actions we have taken:

  • Reminded everyone of preventative practices
  • Increased cleaning and disinfecting on campus
  • Removed self-service stations from dining halls
  • Added more hand sanitizer stations and distributed hand sanitizer to students
  • Asked faculty to adjust practices to limit unnecessary contact with and among students
  • Asked faculty to prepare to be able to deliver courses virtually in the event that becomes necessary
  • Canceled spring break service trips
  • Canceled international study abroad with partner institutions

We will continue to post the latest updates to our Information on Coronavirus webpage. I join in prayer for the individuals and families who are suffering, and I thank you for your continued vigilance in keeping our campus community healthy and safe.

Sincerely,
Seamus Carey

To the Iona Community:

With our students moved in and classes underway, the unofficial end of summer has arrived. Labor Day weekend gives us brief respite to catch our breath after the first week of classes. Green trees will soon turn to yellow and gold, and the descending angle of sunlight anticipates winter’s chill at the far horizon. In contrast to nature’s drowsy descent, we follow a driving need for new pencil boxes, the fresh pages of new books, and reunions with classmates, faculty and friends. It is our new year. This is our beginning. We quicken with hope and anticipation for what it will bring, and I am moved by how right and good “going back to school” here at Iona feels.

As I start my presidency, I am struck by how much is right and good about Iona. The welcome that has been extended to my family and me has been heartwarming. I quickly came to realize, however, that the welcome we have received is not extraordinary for the Iona community. Hospitality is at the core of who we are. From the alumni and alumnae to first-year students and their families, from the faculty to the Trustees, Iona is a learning community of scholars and learners bound by a concern for others and the world. We embody better than most the educational vision of Hannah Arendt, who wrote, “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for that task of renewing a common world.”

I thought of Arendt’s description of education in Ireland this summer while visiting the birthplace of Blessed Edmund Rice, the founder of the Christian Brothers. In the wake of great personal loss, Br. Rice was called to share the transformative power of education with the poor and outcast children of Waterford. He was a visionary who saw that the renewal so essential for the well-being of our common world required the elevation and liberation of children through education. This visionary force for good continues across the world today and nowhere more powerfully than Iona College.

This renewal is evident across campus as well in the soon-to-be dedicated Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, where students from all disciplines can explore ways to apply their knowledge to the world. The LaPenta School of Business will provide bright and spacious spaces for collaboration and study. The refurbished basketball arena will enhance the atmosphere for our student body to support our basketball and volleyball teams. Throughout the year we will celebrate 50 years of contributions and successes by the women of the Iona community. Most importantly, we can feel the energy pouring from classes filled with new ideas and experiences. And everywhere we can read the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of students, professors and parents.

There is also much that is right and good in the liberal arts education we craft together despite complaints from pundits and prognosticators. They question our purpose and wonder naively if there is value in the disciplines we teach. We cannot dismiss such critics out of hand, but we do not have to simply accept their words at face value. It is essential that Iona prepares students for all the professional success they seek and deserve. But I hope that it will also inspire you to achieve that success in order that you might live in accordance with your highest selves and make the world a better place.

I ask each of you to challenge yourselves this year to imagine more and see farther than you think you can. I ask you to seek the significance of what is taught beyond the obvious facts on the page or the discipline studied. I ask you to discover the dignity, and joy, and purpose in your work, and then I urge you to take that work into the world to make a difference. Ralph Waldo Emerson called out to his generation, “We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds.” You are in a privileged place to take advantage of the gifts you bring to Iona. Our country and the world need you to make the most of them.

I wish you all the best for a successful, rewarding and healthy year.

Seamus Carey, Ph.D.
President

Speeches

Welcome. It is a bit awkward welcoming people back to a place they have been before me. But welcome to the new academic year. I haven’t had a chance to meet many of you before now, but I am looking forward to working with you and getting to know each of you individually.

For today, I want to share with you three general ideas I have been thinking about and tie them to what I have seen in my first six weeks at Iona.

First of all, starting today, here, now, I want to invite all of you to engage in the conversation that is underway about re-imagining higher education. This conversation is critically important, it is unavoidable, and it is one in which we, the Iona community, should be a leading voice. As we turn our attention to this conversation, we should remember that it is not a new conversation nor is it foreign to academics. We in the academy have been in the business of re-imagining education for over 2500 years. In fact, re-imagination, I would argue, is our primary business. And, though it may seem like we shy from invention, or adaptation, or innovation, we have been the leaders of those endeavors since the days of Babylon and ancient Greece.

Second, I want to argue that the struggle between whether universities and colleges ought to devote their energies either to workforce development and job preparation or to knowledge and learning for their own sakes is a false conflict that belies the very definitions both of good work and fruitful learning.

Finally, I will argue that regardless of which side of this manufactured conflict we find ourselves on, we start from a common point of concern, we share a common goal, we have a common obligation, and we seek to make and meet a common promise.

Let me ease into these choppy waters with a story. A year ago around this time, my wife and I were traveling to LaGuardia Airport, usually a 15-minute drive from my family’s home. But when the Mets are playing at Citi Field and the U.S. Open is in session on the same night, the drive can take more than an hour, so we arranged for a taxi to come early. As we climbed into the cab, I asked the driver about the traffic. He said it was heavy, but he didn’t seem concerned.

Then he asked if I knew about the Waze app. I told him that I did. He ignored my response and launched into an animated explanation about how Waze works. He explained, ‘it provides real-time traffic updates by constantly processing data from its users’ phones. It even tells you where the police are.’ Looking up from his phone after some fidgeting, he announced that we would arrive at 7:15. This was a little confusing because that meant our trip would take only 20 minutes.

We then started on the ride of our lives. Familiar roads, unfamiliar roads, highways, side streets, we took them all. As soon as we crossed the Whitestone Bridge our driver jumped off the highway at the first exit and began speeding down unfamiliar streets like a starving mouse in a maze. I told him that I had lived my entire life in New York and I had never been down any of these streets. I got a little nervous when he shot back, “Me neither.”

On one busy narrow street, we came upon a car struggling to parallel park. Our driver immediately began blowing his horn. In a panic, the driver of the other car abandoned his efforts to make his car parallel with the curb and instead backed up diagonally onto the sidewalk to let us go by. Our car sped past him and, after a few runs through yellow lights, we arrived at the airport terminal. “It’s 7:17. What time did I say we would arrive?” the driver asked. “7:15,” I reminded him. “Damn. If it wasn’t for that guy trying to park, I would have made it.”

Initially, I was surprised by his disappointment, since we had avoided what was likely an hour of traffic, but then I realized that we were approaching Waze differently. I was pleased because we had avoided the potential traffic jams with ease. He was disappointed because he didn’t match its predictions. It wasn’t his fault, of course. Waze had missed that random guy having trouble parallel parking, and our driver, despite mastery of the best tools available and despite experience and well-practiced skill, couldn’t overcome the ordinary chaos such events represent. As I thought more about our driver’s reaction to being two minutes late rather than 60 minutes early, it struck me that he felt he had let the technology down.

Think for a moment about his enthusiasm for the Waze technology and the frustration he expressed using it. The technology gave him the pragmatic freedom to navigate the busy streets of New York while dodging obstacles that would have inhibited others. But it also trapped him. Even with the magical app he still had to manage the unpredictable, crazy-making, accidental encounters that define the human condition.

One way to view the struggle of this cab driver is to consider it in light of the cultural moment we are living through today. We all realize that we are in the midst of a serious conversation about higher education. If you listen to the critics and the pundits, America’s colleges and universities are in serious trouble. You cannot turn on the television or pick up a newspaper or magazine without someone declaring loudly and sometimes shrilly that we cost too much, that we aren’t relevant, that we aren’t practical and worse, that we aren’t needed.

Political candidates ask us to consider how many jobs there are for “Greek philosophers.” Others joke that “psychology majors will end up working at Chick-fil-A.” Pundits, on the left and on the right, demand that we pour all our energy into job preparation and workforce development. Those same pundits chastise universities and colleges for “coddling students by being too politically correct or not politically correct enough,” and everywhere we turn there are commentators yelling “fire” at the top of their lungs while offering shallow solutions to deeply entrenched challenges.

Now we shouldn’t be naive. We cannot ignore these critics. I have two children in college and one recently graduated. I know first-hand that college costs a great deal. And I know that college must be worth the cost. Those of us in higher education – regardless of our discipline or academic interests – must be vigilant about helping students acquire the knowledge and skills required to get and keep good, productive jobs. And given the technological revolution we are living through, the very meaning of work and jobs is transforming radically. We must identify what they need to navigate the emerging economy and prepare them for it. At the same time, we know that we must be efficient and cost-effective for their parents' sake if for no other reason. Most importantly, we know that we must ensure that we only make promises that we can keep, and then we must live up to the promises we make.

I also believe unreservedly that this work is the core of what Iona does; it is one of the central reasons we exist and who we strive to be. But I also know that we must do more.

We should remember that the academy has always colored outside the lines. Socrates was many things, social critic of those indifferent to true wisdom, gadfly to the so-called experts hired to tutor the young elite in rhetoric, or politics, or warfare. He was also relentless in questioning these “experts” on what they knew, because he recognized that the knowledge they were teaching was incidental to the wisdom required to live a full and free life. In fact, in Socrates’ view, to be satisfied with what one knew could actually turn out to be the most serious obstacle to obtaining wisdom. Consider again my cab driver: He knew how to get to the airport faster than ever but did not have the perspective or wisdom to counter his unhappiness at not being fast enough.

Though we might not say it loudly in these contentious times, I believe that cultivating wisdom and fostering meaningful lives is what motivates us to be here. I believe every one of us interested in higher education is dedicated to helping students look beyond the facts they have been taught, and to see how those facts connect to each other and to the wider realities they sustain. I believe that we do our work because developing wisdom and deepening meaning is the way to a more fulfilling life. I believe that it is the pursuit of such wisdom and meaning that holds the best hope for our survival as a free community.

I believe, too, despite the chatter of the moment, that such conflicts between practical knowledge and wisdom or meaning, rather than being impediments to progress, have been the chief driver of innovation and progress throughout history. The monks of the scriptorium used sophisticated, carefully mastered skills to advance and preserve both the practical knowledge and received wisdom of the Middle Ages. Significant periods of history – the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Exploration, the Industrial Revolution, even our very modern era of online education – were all jumpstarted by academics, scientists, and intellectuals who discovered transformative knowledge in the pursuit of hard facts and uncomfortable truths. Consider the work of Galileo, Descartes, Mary Somerville, Newton, Darwin, Lise Meitner, Einstein, Barbara McClintock, Watson and Crick, Alan Turing and Grace Hopper. Indeed it was the pursuit of wisdom in their times by these individuals that created the history of invention, innovation, and creative adaptation that made possible the advancement of civilization, whether that advancement occurred in 400BCE, 1666, 1859, or 2019.

My point is simple. What we do here at Iona has to be about more than just more education. It has to be about more than jobs, wages, and skills. It has to be about more than cost-effectiveness and efficiency. It has to be about the uniquely human traits of friendship, courage, virtue, compassion, honor, and freedom that turn a well-earned job into a life worth living.

And, if we do not have the wisdom to put such wisdom first, if we do not have the courage to teach our students how to both get a job and be free, then we will fail ourselves, our mission for two millennia, and the tradition of St. Columba that nurtures us.

Put another way, our re-imagining higher education has to be about the cultivation of effective freedom. As philosopher Michael McCarthy writes, “Effective freedom means that no human being can be truly free who lacks the power, cultivated by education, to understand, enjoy, promote and preserve the highest human goods.” Technologies such as Waze contribute to human freedom by enhancing convenience, comfort, and efficiency. Their development and design can create good jobs and offer our children good wages. But by themselves, they cannot enhance the effective freedom that comes from the genuine higher education we hope to provide. That freedom requires the cultivation of character and the willingness to help our students discover and live in accordance with their higher selves.

Specifically, it demands that we teach all our students more than the skills required to communicate clearly, think critically, read and interpret carefully, and experiment productively. It also demands that our students learn more than how to do their chosen professions well or even superbly. Our re-imagined Iona education should kindle a love of learning that fosters the desire to be curious, to be inquisitive, to be inventors and discoverers, and most of all, to not be afraid of the unknown.

For many of our students, this love of learning is first ignited by observing the passion their professors demonstrate for their subject matter. Think about why we all pursued a career in teaching in the first place, the spark we caught from a teacher on fire with her own enthusiasm and training. Think of it now and think of it every day as you head to campus. Offer it up to your students. Show them the fire they will remember as their own inspiration. We know how intensely this light shines in the eyes of teachers who inspire and how it touches their students with grace. We know what it means to be forged in such fire. We have the opportunity to pass on that spark with every lesson we teach.

The effective freedom that results from this education must also lead to action. It does not allow us or our students to retire to the ivory tower or the withdrawing room. It is driven by a love for the world and a desire to fix what needs to be fixed. To quote Hannah Arendt for the second time this week, “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from that ruin, which… except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable.” It is also, she continues, the place “where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new and unforeseen by us.”

Arendt’s vision of education includes an obligation we educators share with responsible employers and civic leaders. The educator, or business person, or politician, who opens the door to the light of learning and knowledge out of a love for the young and a celebration of the new will not only clarify the good and the bad but will also foster a deep sense of responsibility to care for the world. As Kierkegaard points out, what is most important about the doctor at a patient’s bedside is not the knowledge the doctor has, but that he is at the bedside. Pragmatic knowledge and excellent job skills are meaningless without understanding, compassion, and caring. Dedication to transferring such knowledge may get the trains to run on time but cannot relay what it means to be on board or the significance of where it is going.

When our instruction moves students to become women and men who embrace effective freedom, they will not turn away from being engaged citizens. They will not shy away from places that are unfamiliar and people who are different. They will know the joy of looking into the past and exploring the future. They will not be afraid to uncover the beautiful and the broken, the distant and the familiar, the celebratory and the shameful. They will not be perfect, of course. None of us is. But they will not turn away from the struggle.

These then are our promises. We will not shirk our responsibility to educate productive citizens and prepare our students for successful careers. We will not ignore our students’ need for meaningful work. We will serve our students and the communities of Iona, New Rochelle, New York and the nation with vigor and pride. But we will do more.

We will ignite a curiosity and love of learning that together inspire the bravery needed to change the world for the better. We will help our students find the courage to know where they stand, to know what they value most, and to act for the common good even when it goes against their self-interest. We will help our students understand that sifting through what they value is not easy, since so many things we consider good are at odds with each other. But we will teach them that such conflicts do not mean that we must not try, that such conflicts do not mean we do not choose.

Robert Kennedy once said, “The Gross National Product does not include the beauty of our poetry or the intelligence of our public debate. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

Let our re-imagined higher education teach students to seek a worthwhile life in service to others. Let us stand as communities of free inquiry. Let us champion intellectual engagement. Let us acknowledge that risk-taking and failure are essential for growth. Let us provide spaces where creativity, compassion, integrity, and moral courage matter, where our students discover their talents in light of what the world needs, and where our graduates put those talents toward the repair of the world.

 

And, if we do it right, our students will get the jobs they deserve and the careers they want. They will be recognized across the nation as creative, compassionate individuals who seek something greater than self-interest and power. They will be familiar with this vast and complex world so that they are not strangers, even in the most foreign lands. They will be inspired to care for themselves, for their families, and for their communities. And, along the way, they will help Iona blossom into a place widely recognized for the creative exploration of new ideas, for the principled management of resources, for the mercy and tolerance we show each other, and, yes, for economic successes that flourish because they feel free to commit wholeheartedly to making the world a better and safer place.

I came to Iona for the opportunity to nurture these ideas. I am grateful every day to be a part of a community of teachers, scholars, and inquirers and for the conversations, dialogues, and debates we enter into about these matters. I speak now in the hope that together we can embody a vision of higher education universally recognized for offering its students both pathways to world-class jobs and highways to worthy lives. If we can achieve that end, who will dare to say that such an education is not useful, not practical, or not valuable? Who would not want to study at Iona College? Who would turn away Iona graduates?

Good morning and welcome to Iona College. We’re delighted to kick off a new school year by honoring you, the class of 2023. All of us at Iona are honored that you have chosen to spend four pivotal years on our campus, and we take our commitment to you and to your education very seriously.

I have recently navigated the process of selecting a college with my son. I know how trying it can be. So let me first offer my congratulations on your having reached this milestone. As students, I expect you feel some relief and not a small amount of anxiety. Those jumbled feelings are perfectly normal. Talk with your roommate, your floor mates, your classmates. I expect you’ll find they all share your excitement and your concerns.

It’s a while ago now, but I remember experiencing a similar sense of trepidation when I first arrived on campus. As the son of immigrants and the first in my family to go away to school, I was lost. In fact, I was so homesick I decided to withdraw after a couple of weeks and drove home on a Friday afternoon. The next morning my father told me to have a job by Monday morning. So I called a friend who had a construction company to ask for a job. He told me to get back to school. Monday morning I arrived in the dean’s office and the woman I had handed my withdrawal note to smiled, handed it back to me, and said, “This happens all the time.”

I expect your first day on campus was a busy one, but I hope your experience so far has only confirmed that you made the right decision and that you are feeling optimistic and eager to get the school year underway. There will be challenges ahead. Our professors and your peers will push you in ways you have not been pushed before. You may question things you took for granted and truths that seemed obvious. You may stumble onto a new path forward.

Many of you may already have a clear idea of your career path. Others may not be sure. Either way, college should be a time to explore, discover new interests, study topics that excite you, take courses that you love. These pursuits will lead you to your best self as a student and as a person. By studying what you are passionate about, you will develop the skills, confidence, and composure that lead to success regardless of what career path you choose. We expect you to do great work. Great work arises from dedication, and dedication occurs naturally when you are studying what excites you.

One of our goals is to help you find meaningful employment. But our mission is to help you make a meaningful life. And to do that, we will encourage you to reflect on questions of value and purpose. You’ll have the opportunity to study biology, history, accounting, music, philosophy, and computer science. But it’s what you learn about yourself in the process that is ultimately the most interesting. And the most fruitful.

Granted, what I’m describing is not easy. As you’ve no doubt heard all your life, you’ll get out of your Iona experience exactly what you put in. The more you apply yourself to your studies and your extra-curricular activities, the more you’ll take away.

But in the middle of all that furious effort, amid all of your tangible achievements, I hope you find time to step away from the busyness and noise of our interconnected world and sit quietly with your own thoughts. I hope you occasionally stop and think how the things you have read in the world’s greatest texts and the things you have experienced in the laboratory affect your interpretation of the world and how you want to live in it. Author Jim Mustich wrote, “We are born with five senses, and with them our task in life is to develop a sixth: sense of self, fashioned from reason, memory, and feeling, and from the content and context of our learning. That’s really what an education is: a shaping of the sense of self we carry with us as we discover, and develop, and finally, tell, the story of our lives.”

The early chapters of your life story are written. I hope you thanked your parents and family for their help with that. (If you haven’t, you still can.) But continuing to write the new chapters requires courage. It is easy to be who others want us to be. It is hard to be the author of one’s own self. It is harder still when you realize that all the delights and disappointments of your next chapters will be determined by you and how you engage with the people and the opportunities that surround you.

And you will fail—at least I hope you will. I also hope I’m not the first one to tell you that. You will fail—in some way, large or small. And that’s OK. Really, it’s more than OK. Because when you fail, you will know that you stretched yourself, that you tried something that perhaps gave you pause or made you fearful. But if you’re really trying and paying attention, you will learn from failure. That is the heart of education. Education is not a mere transmittal of knowledge from one mind to another. It is a process of growth, change, and development.

Thomas Merton wrote in his autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain: “The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!”

I hope that, here at Iona, you learn to rely on your own imagination, that you learn to consider the comments and opinions of others without letting them determine your value. Look to your bountiful imagination to color your own inner landscape. Imagine a future full of curiosity and fearlessness and joy. Don’t meekly follow the well-trodden path, but boldly forge your own.

As your confidence builds, you will begin to see clearly the person you want to be, the goals you want to pursue, and the moral convictions you will need to achieve them. Then you will be prepared to face all the grief and wonder, happiness and heartbreak, awe and mystery that will come your way, with grace, and strength, and poise, and love.

In short, this is your time to learn new things, to put into practice the knowledge you acquire, to dream with other like-minded individuals, to recognize not only what the world is but what it might become. Today Iona becomes your community of scholars and learners. Together we will read and comment on, study and write about the great books of world civilization. Together we will confront contemporary scientific theories and philosophies and the technology that shapes our daily lives and frames our future. Together we will go into the world and practice what we have learned—helping those in need, managing the affairs of commerce and finance, pioneering new breakthroughs, challenging conventional wisdom. Mark Twain wrote, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Today you begin the long journey toward finding out why.

And how fortunate you are to undertake that journey amid a supportive community of fellow travelers. Together we will peek behind the curtain of the world as we found it and see new possibilities. We will discover what is good and what can be made better. Together we will try the patience of the self-satisfied. Together, through reflection, we will learn from each other.

So, finally, I welcome you to your college; I welcome you to your community of scholars and learners; I welcome you to your home away from home. And I urge you to imagine a new future for yourself and for us all.

Thank you for bringing your experiences, your insights, and your hope to Iona.