Westover’s Virtual Induction

Lecture series begins celebration of Westover Honors history – University  of Lynchburg

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Editor in Chief

     The Westover Honors College inductions were hosted on Oct. 24 for the class of 2024.

     Due to the pandemic, the induction was virtual. Dr. Beth Savage, Dean of the Westover Honors College, said, “This semester we could not have families here physically, but we still thought it was important to have our newest students go through the process of formal induction, welcoming them to the Society of Westover Fellows. We also could not have the entire Westover student body there, as we usually would. So, all of Exec Board sat at the front during the ceremony, and helped to call names and distribute certificates. And for additional support, the older students who are mentors for our freshtovers came and sat at the back of the room to cheer them on, and also wrote letters of support that they picked up afterwards at the reception. So the inductees were physically surrounded by their peers who have already offered them so much support and guidance. And, of course, families joined us via livestream!”

     Dr. Savage continued, “I think it went very well. It was nice to have a community event to reinforce that this is one of the major benefits of Westover, your faculty and your classmates supporting you and cheering you on. And we had 90 people viewing via livestream, so it clearly helped the parents and families to feel involved. We also had a beautiful reception on the balcony–it was a gorgeous day, so that went very well for us. And, as one student told me, ‘It was nice to have a reason to dress up!’”

     Amanda Linehan, senior and a Westover mentor, said, “I was only at the reception, which seemed nice. There was a lot of food and drinks. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.”

     Laura Porto, freshman and Linehan’s mentee, said, “It was a really nice experience, and for some of us, it was a bigger ceremony than our high school graduations. It was really thoughtful of the Westover faculty/exec board/mentors to put together an actual ceremony for us and even set up a livestream for our friends and family to watch at home. Nothing really out of the ordinary happened, but it was really nice to hear from Dr. Savage, Bea Kelly Russo, and Will Andrews before we all received our certificates. After that, the food and refreshments were thoughtful.”

     Ashani Parker, senior and Academic Programming Chair for Westover, said, “Induction this year was a lot different than the induction my Freshman year. Yet the Westover faculty did a lot to ensure that students felt honored. Parents were only able to attend through virtual means so instead Westovers mentors came to show support. In the end, the upperclassmen involvement provided a great opportunity for Westovers across classes to get to know each other.”

     According to Dr. Savage, “I think it is important to acknowledge how much we have adapted to provide our students with the best Westover experience possible, despite the significant limitations of COVID. In the spring, we could not have our usual cording ceremony for our seniors, which is so important as our last step in celebrating them and sending them out to their next step. So we collected hundreds of individual videos from faculty and classmates for each senior, and made them each a unique graduation video–one video compilation each for 45 students! That is something no one else got before them. Our usual retreat had to change, so we invited food trucks and took students kayaking, among other things, which no Westovers have gotten to do before. And now, for induction, we wanted to make sure that our students knew they were important and included in this new community, even if we could not do it the way we have in the past. We are asking a lot of students during this stressful time, and I think it is so crucial to show them that we are also capable of adapting and being creative in thinking of ways to support and welcome them.”

     Porto finished saying, “I would just want readers to know that UL proved that there is a still a way for students to participate on campus in a safe way and that Westover really is like a welcoming community and I am thankful to be a part of both the campus and the Honors College.”

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