"The rest of the world becomes real
only once you step into it." An Address at Opening Convocation, August 27, 2009,
by Dr. Anne-Marie Mallon
Good morning, and greetings to all of you – colleagues, new students, guests! It's a true joy to be sharing my gratitude for this award – in spirit, with my family and my own former teachers who have helped me understand what good teaching is all about – and in person, with my colleagues and especially with my partner, people who continue to teach me how to speak not just to the minds of my students but also to their hearts … truly a lifetime's vocation.
This is a special moment for me – and it's happening because of you. OK, not you personally and individually, but students like you who wanted to acknowledge that our meeting together at KSC had touched their lives in some important way. This is also a special moment for you. This moment, your sitting here together as new Keene State College students, is a first for you.
First times – they're the ones that mark us and, in some small or big way, shape not just who we are but also who we will become. You've had more than a few of those moments already in your 18 or 19 or more years of life:
They're all memorable markers in our lives. The amazing thing is, if we hold our arms and minds open to the possibilities, we are constantly being invited to experience, for the first time, something or someone that will take us to places we have never traveled before.
I'm not just talking about you; I'm talking about all of us.
I had one of those first times just a few months ago – when the College was in the midst of creating a new Honors program. Some of you sitting in front of me now are members. A few colleagues and I asked: What if we made one of the travel-abroad Honors courses a South African experience and took students around the world to South Africa, a totally new place for a student trip?
Now I have to tell you: As an English professor, as a women's studies professor, I've been teaching for a long time about writers from other countries. But there's a big difference between reading about a place and culture and people from the comfort of a classroom in Parker Hall and actually going to the other side of the world to meet those people and experience their world, listen directly to their stories, and see for ourselves what their lives are all about and what possible connections there could be between us.
It would be my first time ever in this particular faraway country, and then my first time ever taking a student group abroad. Even with all my preparation, all my planning, all my conversations with people who had traveled there before, I couldn't be sure just what I would be facing, what we would encounter. It was scary to say yes to it all. But I had to say yes to it all – hoping that I was ready, and willing to keep my mind and heart open to what lay ahead. And it was hard even as it became wonderful, traveling alone for the first time to a country that, I can tell you now, I fell in love with. I met people there whose dreams for a better life will help shape how I live my own life in the years ahead.
And then I traveled there again with my students, who were also willing, apprehensively, to be the first Keene State students to go. I'll let them tell you for themselves about their experience:
One said: "I have learned more than words can express not only about myself, but also about the world and how different yet similar everyone is to each other." Another wrote: "I want to bring back the acceptance, the equality, and the community and have it always be a part of my life." And a third said: "There are a lot of places in the world that I haven't seen that are much more amazing than Brooklyn, Connecticut … and we are a lot more similar than we are different." And one more comment: "I discovered that the rest of the world becomes real only once you step into it." I like that last comment a lot: The rest of the world becomes real only once you step into it.
So what does all this have to do with you today? What links this moment today to that May trip to South Africa?
This is your new world today ... starting from the moment you woke up in Carle Hall or Randall or Monadnock or Holloway or Huntress Hall, or in a new apartment in Keene. Like my students and me, I'm sure that you spent a lot of time over the summer reading about this new world, preparing for your trip, talking to your new classmates on Facebook. You've traveled quite a ways to get here, I'm sure, and perhaps you're just as nervous as I was when I landed in South Africa. This is where your real journey begins.
The rest of the world becomes real only once you step into it. So here's the invitation from your new community – faculty, RAs, advisors, coaches, the President, and all the staff who have stepped out of their offices today to welcome you through those arches. Put down your baggage, your cell phone, your high school yearbook, and be here now. Promise yourself that you will discover what is amazing for you about being here today, next week, for the next four years.
Please don't leave Keene State College in four years with just a degree and a whole lot of Facebook images. Promise yourself that you will use this opportunity to learn more than grades or photos can express about you and this world around you, and us, the people in it who have so much to offer you.
The rest of the world becomes real only once you step into it.
One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, has written:
When it's over, I don't want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular and real.
You're no longer a visitor to KSC. Step inside and be with us.
We've got so many first times to offer you!
Welcome to Keene State College – Halala in Zulu.
We're so very happy you've arrived.
Dr. Anne-Marie Mallon Honored as 2009 Distinguished Teacher
At Opening Convocation for first-time students on August 27, Dr. Anne-Marie Mallon, professor of English and women's studies, was presented with the 2009 Distinguished Teacher Award. This award has been given annually by the KSC Alumni Association for 38 years to honor extraordinary professionalism and dedication by a faculty member.
Dr. Mallon received her undergraduate degree from Fordham University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Notre Dame. Her scholarly interests include women writers, 20th-century American literature, lesbian and gay literature, international narratives, and modern drama. At Keene State, where she has taught since 1985, she was instrumental in the creation of the College's Integrative Studies and Honors programs, among many other accomplishments, and recently led a group of honors students to South Africa. At the Convocation, she addressed the new class of incoming students, offering encouragement, inspiration, and challenge. Excerpts appear at left. Watch her complete speech (10 minute video).
What Colleagues and Students Say About Professor Mallon
"Dr. Mallon has long been an ambitious, adventurous, and interdisciplinary teacher. She has been among the leaders in rethinking the canon of American literature…. She conveys her passion for her students and her fields of study with so positive and generous a spirit that students can hardly help being caught up in her questioning mind…. She helps students to fly."
– Dr. Nona Fienberg, Dean of Arts and Humanities
"To this day I vividly remember my first class with Dr. Mallon: she scared me…. What I then defined as fear is what I came to recognize (and greatly appreciate) as her high standards of excellence and her genuine concern and expectations that each and every one of her students not only meet, but also exceed those standards."
– Dr. Gabriel Wettach '94
"I have now taught 8th-grade English for three years and … there are few days in my classroom when I do not hear through my voice the words of Dr. Mallon as I challenge my students, even at the young age of 13, not to accept the words of the novels they read at face value… And I know that at least for a few of them, I am energizing them and waking them out of their sleepy heads to be excited about literature and their ability to think, write, and experience it."
– Becky Riley '94
"By the time Essay 101 ended, I had fully embarked on what many of my fellow English majors would refer to as the ‘Mallon Experience.' For me, this experience was about connections, self-authority, critical analysis, embracing risks, and active engagement.… It was about formulating an idea and pushing myself to dig deeper than I originally thought possible."
– Elise Morrissette '03
"Her incredibly optimistic expectations of others are sincere and challenging and help those who are fortunate to cross paths with her to understand their worth and place in the world."
– Katie Vaillancourt '08