Every fall, the college kicks off the academic year with speeches from members of the COA community, welcoming new students and fostering a sense of excitement amongst the crowd.

Amy Hoffmaster ’06 speaking at Convocation 2015.Amy Hoffmaster ’06 speaking at Convocation 2015.

This year, convocation began with a speech from COA alumna Amy Hoffmaster ’06, who emphasized the importance of flexibility, community, and failure. Hoffmaster’s message was largely inspired by the work she’s been doing at Citizen Schools — a group that offers alternative educational experiences for middle-school students through the provision of academic support and hands-on learning opportunities.

Hoffmaster talked about both the freedom and the claustrophobia that came with a flexible COA education. She reminisced on the struggles and stressors many students experience, but also fondly recalled the beauty and liberation that comes with COA’s supportive, open-ended atmosphere.COA President Darron Collins ’92 announces the school's new expeditionary funding program at Convocation 2015.COA President Darron Collins ’92 announces the school's new expeditionary funding program at Convocation 2015.

“[Embrace] the value of remaining open to educational risks… [build] learning experiences that value failure and the process that it takes to learn from it,” Hoffmaster said. “[Take] classes that you are intrigued by, but maybe nervous about or scared of… this will give you a chance to examine this discomfort, understand where it’s coming from”.

Hoffmaster’s motivating speech was followed by wise words from college president Darron Collins ’92. Collin’s began his speech with a personal story of his newly cultivated boating hobby.

“Being a pilot… changes your perspective,” Collins began. “In piloting my new boat, I’m forced to learn… [to be] child-like…”.Amy Hoffmaster ’06 is the Deputy Director for Program Design at Citizen Schools, an organization that aims to re-imagine the middle school experience for low-income students.Amy Hoffmaster ’06 is the Deputy Director for Program Design at Citizen Schools, an organization that aims to re-imagine the middle school experience for low-income students.

Collins drew parallels between developing new skills and interests and taking the lead of your own life. He emphasized the importance of discomfort and exploration in the journey to growth and learning.

In the midst of all of this, he announced huge news for the college and its students — COA’s new expeditionary fund. As of this year, each student is granted $1,800 to fund off-campus study, including courses that involve traveling, internships, and residencies. The new fund aims to promote student exploration.

On top of this exciting news, Collins welcomed 105 new students, new faculty member in visual arts Sean Foley and visiting poet Tim Liardet.

Above all else, convocation this year seemed to revolve around the theme of exploration COA President Darron Collins relates his experience as a first-time boat captain at age 45 while speaking at Convocation 2015.COA President Darron Collins relates his experience as a first-time boat captain at age 45 while speaking at Convocation 2015.and novelty. The COA community is filled with thinkers and adventurers, and that’s what makes us so unique. We’re a group committed to change and transformation, and we’re
not afraid of confronting the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable. We invite all members of the COA community — new, old, and future — to join us in this year’s expedition into the sea of newness, discomfort, and discovery.