President Amy Gutmann welcomed the Class of 2025 and transfer students to Penn at an in-person Convocation ceremony Monday night.
On the eve of the first day of school, Convocation speakers welcomed incoming students with advice about navigating Penn in this moment of transition. This year’s Convocation was markedly different from last year’s virtual ceremony welcoming the Class of 2024, with students seated close together in front of College Hall — some without masks.
Gutmann, newly appointed Vice Provost and Dean of Admissions Whitney Soule, and Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein delivered speeches welcoming the incoming students, and Dischord, Penn Glee Club, and the Penn Band performed.
Gutmann took the stage, celebrating that students have finally returned to campus, chanting, “We’re back! We’re back!”
She told new students that the best way to navigate Penn is to appreciate the diversity of their classmates.
“[This is] an impressive crowd — impressive in its talent and its diversity,” Gutmann said. “You are absolutely integral to the global summit that is seated all around you, and you now embark on an exciting journey to make the most of it.”
Gutmann’s speech highlighted the importance of the intersection between collaboration and independent thinking, citing the work of Penn professors Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó, whose breakthrough mRNA technology and therapy were instrumental to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine development.
“These very vaccines are what have made it possible for us to gather here today,” Gutmann said.
Amy Gutmann also discussed her nomination to serve as the next United States ambassador to Germany, comparing her transition to the new role to the Class of 2025’s transition from high schoolers to Penn students.
In her speech, Soule said that this year’s Convocation marks a period of transition for everyone, including herself, as she just started at Penn on July 1.
“Like you, I got to know Penn on the other side of the Zoom screen,” Soule said.
Winkelstein also implored students to prioritize their well-being, asking that they try “not to stress.” She added that students should embrace the uncertainty of recent months, which could lead them through different and unexpected paths.
As the speeches came to a close, students and Penn faculty members sang the University’s anthem “The Red and Blue.”
“[The speeches] just made me so excited and proud to be a Penn student,” College sophomore Paris Rosen said as students walked towards Perelman Quadrangle for refreshments after the event. “I feel so lucky to be on campus and have this be my home for the next three years.”
Rosen, who transferred to Penn from Tulane University, said her transition to Penn turned out to be easier than she anticipated.
“I already walk through campus and see friendly faces," Rosen said. "All the people I’ve met have made the transition so easy.”
Wharton and Engineering first year Samarth Jain said the event was “really memorable” because it marked the return of an in-person college experience and Gutmann’s final Convocation.
“One thing that Amy [Gutmann] said — that your collaboration can change the world — I thought that was really awesome,” Jain said. “What we are trying to do in [New Student Orientation] is make friends, and maybe one day me and my friend might change the world.”