Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and alumnae celebrated the start of the 2015–16 school year on Thursday, September 10, at a spirited convocation ceremony in historic Riverside Church.

In her welcoming remarks, President Debora Spar promised new students, "[T]his place—college, a four-year liberal arts, intensely academic college—will change your life....It will change not only who you are, but who you want to be. It will push you not only to learn, but to learn how to learn and, crucially, to explore why you learn." President Spar also talked about why women's colleges are still relevant today: "We are...a laboratory of sorts; a liberating and expansive intellectual space where young women can define themselves unencumbered by societal expectations of who they are and what they should become."

Dara Richardson-Heron '85, YWCA USA chief executive officer, was the keynote speaker. In her address she recalled her transformative Barnard experience and said, " it is still the best college in the world," and that it's a credit to the education she received that she is "...a physician by trade and an advocate by choice." She also spoke about the need for places like Barnard in the world and exclaimed that, "one day very soon we will all live in a world free of sex and gender discrimination and harassment," but that we were not there yet.  In closing she said, "throughout the course of your life, you will most certainly experience some sort of racism, sexism or unfair treatment, but if you add value it will almost be impossible for your efforts to go unnoticed."

The ceremony marked the continuation of a tradition—first embraced during the 125th-Anniversary festivities—of holding Convocation not only for first-year students, but for the entire Barnard community. More than 60 alumnae class officers from as far back as 1946 marched in the ceremonial procession dressed in academic regalia and carrying class flags, and were cheered on by hundreds of current students.

Among the participating alumnae was Elaine Schlozman Chapnick '61, class president, who said she is always happy to return to campus. "I come back to reconnect with the memories that I had from my wonderful four years at Barnard, and to reconnect with all the wonderful people that I know from Barnard," she said.

Students from all years took part, wearing special class t-shirts for the occasion. "It's nice to be part of tradition," said Sydney Everett '18, the junior class vice president. "I love every Barnard tradition, and Convocation is a great one."

Convocation also capped off an exciting two weeks on campus, what President Spar called for the Class of 2019, "the end of the beginning." On August 30, the College officially welcomed the 638 members of the Class of 2019 to campus. Students spent the week after move-in day taking part in the New Student Orientation Program (NSOP) designed to prepare them for campus life.

As part of NSOP, students learned how faculty advisors can help them achieve academic goals, discussed how to maintain wellness amid school-year stress, and were introduced to the myriad student services available to them. With the NSOP theme "You Are Here," chosen to reflect the diversity of experiences that converge at the College, students also discussed how they can best contribute to an inclusive campus society.

Of course, NSOP was not just work. Almost every evening offered social events, including welcome receptions for a number of communities including LGBTQ, students of color, and first-generation college students. Students had the chance to (attempt) to be hypnotized by the great New York Hypnotist, take part in an open mic night, tour neighborhoods from Harlem to Coney Island, and participate in a dance off at a welcome barbecue staffed by campus celebrities including Millie the Bear!

To view social media posts from NSOP and Convocation, click here.