New Student Convocation

class of 2018 photoIt’s been a long weekend of Orientation activities for our new first-year Class of 2018s.  I caught the tail end of yesterday’s events – dinner with academic advising groups over at the football stadium, followed by Wake the Demons, a spirited pep rally kind of evening where new students learned cheers and the fight song and such.  One nice outcome was a class picture – so behold, the Class of 2018!  It will be hard for you to find your Deac, but your student can probably tell you the general area to look.

This morning all of the new students went to one-on-one meetings with their academic advisers.  Those appointments give students a chance to talk about any schedule items that they had questions or concerns about, but also provides an opportunity for the adviser and student to get to know each other better, set any expectations of what they want from their advising relationship, etc.  And it gives the advisers an opening to offer some tips or advice on how to get a good start.  It’s always fun getting to know a new group of advisees.

After lunch we had New Student Convocation.  This official academic ceremony provided a venue for the new class to gather with their student adviser (and academic advisers if available).  I attended this event and wanted to offer a brief recap.

Sarah Martin (’15), the student representative on the Committee on Orientation and Lower Division Advising, offered her top 1o pieces of advice for new students as they start their college careers:

1. Strive for milestones.

2. Work hard.

3. Don’t fear failure.  (She got a big audience chuckle when she said – tongue in cheek –  ‘Remember that falling on your face is still forward movement.’)

4. Seek help and use campus resources.

5. Find a mentor.

6. Get involved.

7. Roll the Quad!  (I loved her explanation – that rolling the Quad is so much more than about athletic victories – it represents the coming together of our community).

8. Make the most of your time here.

9. Be kind.

10. Live Pro Humanitate [our motto, ‘For humanity’]

University Chaplain Tim Auman followed.  He invited everyone to share in the blessing he offered for the new students, in the spirit of everyone’s faith traditions.  What struck me the most in his blessing was his invocation of the notion of wisdom, civility, compassion, and generosity of spirit.

President Nathan O. Hatch addressed the group next.  He shared stories of some of his college professors.  One had picked on him, singled him out in class, threw him curveball questions and tough assignments.  Dr. Hatch came to realize he was not being picked on, but intellectually engaged, because his professor saw something in him that made him want to press harder.  “He understood that a student’s mind is not a bucket to be filled, but a fire to light,” said Dr. Hatch.

He also talked about a class that was really rigorous – 12 research papers due in a 15 week term.  Dr. Hatch recalled having to spend two days each week researching and writing those papers.  And while the workload was challenging, he discovered by the end of the term, he’d learned how to take his research and writing to the next level.  Dr. Hatch said it was as if his mind had been to the gym and his mental muscles had grown from so much practice.  He also said that he discovered that learning needs both silence and solitude, and that class helped him focus and concentrate.

Dr. Hatch concluded by urging students to chew on the big questions outside of class.  What do I know?  In what can I believe?  How can I serve?  In what do I want to invest my life?  And that students should explore the big questions of life and think about developing both mind and character in college.

Meredith Mulkerrin (’15), Student Government President, reflected on the transition from high school to college.  She said that most Wake Forest students arrive at college being used to being big fish in a small pond, and the sudden realization that you are a minnow is an adjustment.  And that during Orientation (and at the start of your first year) EVERYONE is offering you advice about everything.  But in class, everything is different.  In class, you can use your voice – ask questions, challenge assumptions, examine and expose.

She concluded with offering this advice and predictions for the future:

– in the last 4 hours of Orientation, soak up all the advice you can.

– in 4 days, follow up with your student advisers and faculty advisers.  Talk to them – tell them how you are, or if you need help.

– in 4 weeks, you’ll learn who you click with (and who you don’t).  You’ll also learn your caffeine delivery device of choice.

– in 4 months, take your pulse.  You’ll be home and reseeing your friends from high school.  You’ll have time to reflect on the semester.  Who are you? What have you learned? How have you changed?

– in 4 years, you’ll have a list a mile long of why you love Wake Forest!

Before the singing of the alma mater and the recessional, Christy Buchanan, Associate Dean of Academic Advising, presented the awards for Excellence in Academic Advising.  This year’s winners were Mary Gerardy, Associate Vice President and Associate Dean of Campus Life, and Luis González, Associate Professor of Spanish.  Dean Buchanan offered one final piece of advice to the new students: communicate.  In person whenever possible, but communicate with your new faculty, peers, and community members.

The convocation concluded and the new students went back out to the Quad, which was a near perfect mid 70s and sunny.  A picture perfect WFU day.

Classes start tomorrow.  The adventure begins!

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