September 20, 2010

Emmanuel Opens School Year with 92nd Academic Convocation

Emmanuel College held its Academic Convocation ceremony on September 14th in the Jean Yawkey Center gymnasium. Beth Murphy, founder of Principle Pictures, documentary producer, director and author, was this year's speaker. Through Principle Pictures, an independent film company committed to giving voice to the voiceless, Murphy raises awareness about important social issues, and inspires education and action through entertainment. Her most recent feature documentary, "Beyond Belief," chronicles the story of two 9/11 widows from the Boston area, who responded to the tragedy in their lives by traveling to Afghanistan and working to empower Afghan widows facing war, poverty and oppression.

Murphy's work complements this year's book selection for the summer reading assignment, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, which also focuses on social change and education, particularly with regard to Afghanistan.

Emmanuel's Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Frank Scully opened the ceremony by welcoming Emmanuel students, faculty and staff. Emmanuel student Tristyn Sepersky '11 along with Special Instructor of Performance Arts and Music Coordinator Timothy Evans, performed an opening song followed by a prayer read by Student Government Association President Caroline Dias '11.

During her remarks, College President Sister Janet Eisner, SND informed the audience about the history of convocations, which serve to remind colleges of their missions at the start of the academic year. She said that Emmanuel has stayed true to its mission "to educate students in a dynamic learning community rooted in the liberal arts and sciences and shaped by strong ethical values and a Catholic intellectual tradition," since the earliest years of the College.

Sister Janet continued by recognizing the Emmanuel students, class by class. She encouraged members of the senior class to continue making Boston their extended classroom, juniors to continue experiencing the real world through internships, study abroad and community service, the sophomore class representatives to remain focused as they declare their allegiance to a particular area of study, and the freshmen to begin to make an imprint on Emmanuel.

"When you first came to Emmanuel in 2007 you planned to make Boston your extended classroom," Sister Janet said to the senior class. "You still have your senior year to fulfill those plans. Have you been to the Museum of Fine Arts lately? The Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum? The Boston Symphony? This year may you appreciate even more the Emmanuel education with a program which builds both character and career."

Murphy began her remarks by reminiscing of the days when she was "just a little girl with big ideas" in her college years. Those big ideas were what led her on the road to her career now as a filmmaker. Murphy explained that prior to becoming a filmmaker she worked as a journalist, where she was often upset by how much information she was forced to leave out of each story. She began her own production company where she could make documentaries to tell the stories of people around the world.

"Almost every unnerving thing that could possibly happen to you when traveling has happened to me, but taking the rough road has truly been a small price to pay to get to meet the people I met along the way," Murphy said of her travels while shooting documentaries. "People who want to make life easier for others who have drawn the 'proverbial short straw' in life."

Murphy explained that success in life and following your dreams is all about taking small steps towards what we believe. She referenced the summer reading selection, Three Cups of Tea, acknowledging one man's ability to make a huge difference.

"Never underestimate how much you continue to not know," she said. "While we all still have so much to learn, we also have so much to do. If you want to make a difference today, you already have the power to do that."

Murphy told the story of the two women featured in her documentary "Beyond Belief." She explained that the hardships of being a widow in Afghanistan are unimaginably worse than that of being a widow in the United States, which is why the two women who lost their husbands in the attacks on September 11th created a foundation to help. The foundation gives Afghan widows the basic tools needed to achieve a measure of independence and care for themselves and their children.

She closed her remarks by reminding students to take advantage of the opportunity they have at their fingertips to get a great college education. Murphy emphasized that the education the students have and will continue to receive at Emmanuel is something that other people in the world only dream of, especially those Afghan widows fighting for an education for their own children.

"Despite their differences," Murphy said of the Afghan widows, "we all have the same basis for our big ideas; security, health, happiness and education."