Mansfield Convocation Speaker Talks About Finding Joy


At Mansfield’s annual Academic Convocation on Friday, Aug. 18, featured speaker Gretchen Sechrist, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology, spoke to the incoming students about the importance of finding joy.

“About three years ago, we were just starting another semester, and I came home from work and perhaps was looking a little more somber than usual, and my husband asked me what was wrong. I looked at him and shook my head and said, ‘I lost my joy.’ He responded, ‘I will help you find it. But it’s probably under the bed. You lose a lot of socks there.’” 

Sechrist told the new students, “This made me laugh, as he usually does, but I was being serious. I had lost my joy. We were still in the thick of the pandemic and classes were online. I never got to see students or colleagues.”

“I needed to go find joy. It wasn’t going to find me,” she added. “I had gotten away from the things that brought me joy and happiness. I had to get back into the habit of experiencing joy. And that started a change in the way I look at things in my career and personal life. The best part of my job is working with students.”

Sechrist said it was the students that bring her joy, so she decided to change the way she taught her online classes and focused even more on her students and their needs during those challenging circumstances. “I started to schedule more individual meetings with students to discuss their future plans,” she said. “In focusing more on making connections with students and helping them, as I had done previously, I started to find joy again in my career. I started focusing more on my colleagues and my family and my spouse.”

“There are a few things you can do to help find your joy during your college years,” Sechrist said. “First, take advantage of all the opportunities college offers. By exposing ourselves to new topics, situations, and ideas, we can help figure out what truly brings us joy. Take classes that interest you. But also take classes in topics you don’t know much about. Don’t just assume you won’t be interested in a certain topic. Take chances and challenge yourself. Put yourself in situations that will make you better – that help you grow as a person and learn something. Have a plan and share that plan with others. But also recognize that plans change. Sometimes to find joy we need to embrace these changes and obstacles and see them as opportunities rather than bumps in the road.”

Other speakers at the event included:

  • Jonathan Rothermel, associate professor of political science. “Today, smartphones, ear buds, apartment-style residence halls, and – ironically – social media, have made it much easier to isolate ourselves. But more than ever, the world needs you and your generation to be more invested in community.”
  • President Bashar Hanna. “We know that every student in this room has the potential to graduate and go on to make a real difference in the world, no matter what degree you are pursuing. That is why we want your time at Mansfield to be rich with learning, growth, and seizing opportunity. I encourage you to make the most of your time as a Mountie.”
  • Diana Rogers-Adkinson, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “I am so proud of the work we have been doing together to create an academic curriculum that provides our students with the most current, cutting-edge education available. Our students will have an academic experience that is rich with opportunities and will prepare them to be leaders in their fields, armed with knowledge and skills relevant to today’s jobs.”
  • Marty Wygmans, vice president of student success and campus life and Mansfield campus administrator. “I was a first-generation college student. I went to community college, got my associate degree, and, almost on a whim, decided to transfer to get my bachelor’s degree. And then, I got the invitation to this thing called a Convocation. Everyone processes in. I see a man in a robe, and he looks so smart, impressive, and sort of like a wizard. All of these other people, also looking like wizards, are walking behind him. Later, I find out that they are the faculty – and they don’t always look like wizards – and that some of them will become some of the most important people in my academic life.”
  • Ashley Newell, Student Government Association president. “I’ve discovered something very important about college. No matter the height of the obstacles you face, they are surmountable, and you will always find the path forward. A year from now, you will look back at all that you have overcome, and you will realize that you are making your mark, and you survived. This is your challenge over the next four years here at Mansfield, to find your unique, powerful, and capable voice.”