Voices of Simmons

Maralee Mitchell '20: It All Starts Here

At Convocation, Woman on Campus and Senior Class President, Maralee Mitchell '20, welcomed first-year students and addressed the graduating senior class. Read her full speech below.


Today I am honored and privileged to welcome the first-year students and address my beloved senior class. 

If you told me three years ago I’d be standing up here, I honestly wouldn’t believe you. In high school, I was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease that changed my life. All of a sudden, expectations weren’t guarantees, tomorrows weren’t promised, and I didn’t know if graduating from high school was in the cards, never mind attending college. Despite the odds and my marginalized health, through the unyielding support of family and friends, I got through it and was given the opportunity to give it, “the old college try.” Feeling like a fraud, an admissions mistake, I sat there in those very seats, sweaty, exhausted, and terrified of what came next, wondering if I was up for the task ahead. 


Little did I know that I was in exactly the right place. That comfort and growth have never gone together, and that I chose an institution where my hard work was finally going to have real results. A place where I’d be faced with empathy and support in the face of hardship, and inspiration and mentorship where I didn’t even know I needed it. It’s here that I’d find my people. People who had similar hopes for the future, who were willing to fight and sacrifice for what they believed in, and who weren’t willing to surrender to the status quo. 

As I look out into this senior class, I honor these incredible and triumphant souls. Among this crowd are countless journeys all tied by the thread of Simmons and our experiences here. In a thousand different ways, this institution has shaped us, challenged us, and inspired us. Making powerful leaders who will be shaking things up long after next spring. 

And it starts here.

For the freshman, it’s the first of many firsts: The urgent Target runs, procrastinating assignments in Common Grounds, finding your way home by the light of the Citgo sign, running away from the Fenway geese, and discovering you can always get three double chocolate muffins for a meal swipe.

And after 254 days, we’ll wear these same robes, as we cross the stage and look back at a masterpiece of fulfilled dreams and hard-earned accomplishments.

For my fellow seniors it is the first of many lasts: the Late Nights at Bartol, trying to pet the bunnies in the quad, freaking out in study rooms before finals, class registration-related heart attacks, delirious all-nighters filled with coffee and a reckless lack of proofreading, rushing Fenway and Kenmore when Boston wins another major sports championship! And more seriously… living with some of your best friends, having the privilege of learning from the extraordinary people behind me, and calling this beautiful “nest” in Boston our home. Its the oddest feeling, sprinting towards the finish line while still trying to smell the roses.

After today, our lives are going to be filled with internships, capstones, thesis writing, and job hunting. And after 254 days, we’ll wear these same robes, as we cross the stage and look back at a masterpiece of fulfilled dreams and hard-earned accomplishments.

And with that all still ahead... Let me leave our baby Sharks with some advice: 

You create your own limits. For the first time in your life, your direction is completely in your hands. Say yes! Join the organization, approach that professor, talk to those people over there, apply for the job, and don’t be afraid to ask the questions!

Gwen Ifill once said that change comes from “listening, caring, and conversation.” And that couldn’t parallel the Simmons experience more. Those longer than expected office hours, heated club meetings, countless lectures, speakers, and treasured late night conversations with friends. These are the moments that will change you, and help you grow into your truest self. You’ll find what you like, don’t like. You’ll learn so much about you, and the people sitting next to you. Your worldview is going to be turned upside down. And you’ll be so excited to share it with family and friends your first break home.

As you go through struggles and learn more about the world, things may seem scarier, more bleak. Someday you might look out of your window and wonder how everyone is doing it... It might feel like too much, but you have community here. Remember that you have a home at Simmons, and you have people. You’ll reach out — and you WILL find support. 

Let your pins you received earlier serve as that reminder. I may be one of the few who still has mine. It’s had some adventures, from the back of desk drawers, under my dorm bed to the miscellaneous college box. But here it is, the pin I received at convocation three years later, representing the legacy the class of 2017 left. I hope that years from now, you will also have your pins, reminding you of this beautiful day and the official start to your Simmons journey.

Thank you so much to the esteemed academy, our phenomenal administration, the friends and families who got us here, both present and not, and to all of YOU. Welcome to Simmons! 

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