Student Convocation, 2019 – A Commitment to Excellence
- by Jizlibel Dohou
The Student Convocation at the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) on Wednesday 27th of March was a great event to meet up with new students and touch base with professors and staff. A moving prayer was offered by Dr. Jacob David, an Anglican pastor, and UTS professor and chaplain.
One of two MCs for the event, Samuel Dennis (UTS’18), invited up the first speaker, Dr. Hugh Spurgin (UTS’77) the president of Unification Theological Seminary. Spurgin stressed that it is the students who are the most important asset of the seminary. Whether they are online students or in classroom students, they are vital to the standing of UTS. He spoke appreciatively about the first cohort of UTS Online students in Fall 2017 which launched the program. UTS Online has been enthusiastically received each semester since then.
Emphasizing the uniqueness of the UTS, “the Interfaith School,” and its dynamic mission of “bridging religious and cultural divides,” Spurgin informed the new students that there are many inter-denominational seminaries but very few Inter-Faith seminaries. UTS graduates are providing leadership in close to 100 countries throughout the world, effectively being channels of peace in each of those countries. He ended by giving his blessing to the new students of the seminary.
Carla Mongado, a soprano, who plans to be a student at the seminary in the Fall, then filled the Oak Room with song. Her touching and beautiful voice added a great sense of presence in the Oak Room.
Afterwards came a candle ceremony assisted by Joy Theriot, Interim Director of Student Life. Each new student held a lighted candle. Theriot explained that when the candles are lit, this represents peace within each student, a peace that would then shine out on the world.
The new students recited the Student Code, a code to guide their student life.
Unification Theological Seminary Student Code
I commit myself before God:
1. To develop my relationship with God through regular spiritual practices with full devotion of heart, mind and body;
2. To uphold and live according to the highest moral and ethical standards in my personal life and relations with others;
3. To respect the campus as a smoke-free, alcohol-free and drug-free environment, and to maintain my body at all times as a temple of God;
4. To refrain from premarital and extramarital relationships, sexual harassment and pornography;
5. To respect the diversity of cultural and religious traditions;
6. To attend enrolled classes and fulfill academic responsibilities with honesty and integrity;
7. To pursue my religious vocation with integrity upon graduation.
I recognize that admission to UTS is a privilege, and hereby make my sincere commitment in heart and action to the provisions of this code, and to all standards of the Seminary as described in the Student Handbook.
The audience was moved by a message from Roeline Ramirez, a current Master of Religious Education at UTS, Christian Education Coordinator and member of the Trinity United Methodist Church in New Jersey. Her journey to come and study at UTS served as the highlight of the convocation; she shared her great experience. Her experience of the seminary had opened her heart and served as her inspiration in fulfilling her mission.
Two students gave responses: Bishop Rene Ballenas and Regina Talja. Ballenas is a Master of Divinity student and a Seventh Day Adventist pastor. He asked all of the UTS students to become UTS “ambassadors” and to each bring one student to study at UTS. He was followed by Talja a Master of Arts student, who compared her discovery of UTS to finding an “oasis in the desert” which moved, inspired, and strengthened her life of faith.
Congratulatory and closing remarks were given by Dr. Keisuke Noda, Academic Dean, who encouraged the students to pursue studies with a commitment to excellence. He emphasized excellence as a virtue for UTS faculty and staff too.
Dasse Diarra an MDiv student, and the second MC for the evening, concluded the program by requesting one more song from Carla Mongado and a closing prayer and blessing from Dr. David.