Investiture Address: Stephanie A. Emenyonu '16 Th'17 '18

June 9, 2018

Thank you, Dean Helble.

I’ve spent six years at Dartmouth, and I have seen it evolve, yet remain the same. I’ve been challenged beyond my limits only to discover new ones. And I’ve engaged with people whose perspectives I know can change the world. But all during my journey here, two questions stayed with me: Do I really matter? And where do I belong?

Dartmouth has given me many reasons to call this place home. I loved when I could see the nostalgia and camaraderie flowing down East Wheelock and Main Street during Homecoming. I loved those sleep-deprived group project nights in Couch Lab at 2am when all of a sudden something just clicked! and the group innovation became unmatched. I loved squeezing into Game of Thrones watch parties even though we all knew finals started the next day. And I loved taking peaceful walks around Occom Pond on late spring afternoons to clear my mind with all the beauty Hanover willingly offers.

But then there were times when this place called Dartmouth made my heart heavy. As a Black woman, times were not always easy as I navigated trying to be a leader and friend to other students from marginalized communities who felt judged as “unfit,” all the while not knowing where I belonged. I hated when friends and I would reflect on insensitivities we experienced both on the Green and in the classrooms—from racial slurs to ruthless dismissals of our viewpoints. It hurt when one after another, professors of color would leave Dartmouth, creating a void of mentorship and perpetual community that often left me with no place to turn. And in times of turmoil, it pained me to watch many of my friends gain the courage to speak up about their grievances only to be asked by some of their peers, “Well, why did you even apply here?”

As engineers, we know dismissing a problem is not a solution.

It was by acknowledging both the good and the bad times that I grew to realize that each and every individual at this College has a purpose now and moving forward and we do matter. While Thayer is not perfect, especially for those whose identities are different from society’s historic “typical engineer,” it is an ever-evolving space that usually answers the call before others do. And I was put here at the perfect time to discover all this. Thayer is a home and sanctuary where others knew they could find me. Thayer is a call to action, an innovative hub, and a place to laugh all in one. And, arguably most important, it is a place to learn that we will make a difference in our respective communities and with each challenge that comes our way in our lives. Was your GPA lower than 3.0? You will make a difference. Did your team get ripped to shreds by the review board with only one week to go for the project? You will make a difference. Do you feel trapped inside your own head wondering, “What’s next?” as you attempt to plan your entire life at the meager age of 24? You will make a difference. Do you feel left out and unable to find your way in the midst of the chaos of classes, family and friends, work, and what lies ahead? You will make a difference.

From the BA through the MEM, I’ve seen Thayer and Dartmouth through different lenses. These vantage points have shown me that we all have the opportunity to take our experience and use it to shape who we are for the better. We have the chance to take all the knowledge we’ve gained, perspectives we’ve created and emotions we’ve felt and create remarkable futures for ourselves and our communities around the world. Life thrives on those who understand how the world currently is, but are willing to fight for how they want it to be.

I’m proud to say that I spent the last six years laying a part of the foundation of who I am at Thayer School. As we leave Dartmouth, leave with the assurance that we do matter, we all belong, and we will make a difference.