Students fill stairway. Two flash peace signs.

Convocation Welcomes First-Year and Transfer Students to Their New Academic Home

September 8, 2021
By: Nancy Sheehan

First-year and incoming transfer students walked through a cheering gauntlet of faculty and staff as part of Worcester State’s annual Convocation Ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 1. The annual event marks the official start of the academic year.

Traditionally, incoming students process from the sidewalk along Chandler Street onto campus through the Tiffany Alumni Gates, marking a symbolic entrance into a new phase of their lives. A steady light rain this year meant the event had to be relocated to the Wellness Center, but the weather didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the students. Led by ceremonial mace-carrier Michael Hachey, M.F.A., professor of Visual and Performing Arts, the students formed a procession that descended a winding staircase from the second-floor gym, where the students had gathered, then made its way through a corridor lined with faculty and administrators, dressed in the color-accented regalia of their alma maters, as well as staff and a few proud parents all enthusiastically applauding the students as they passed through.

Students said having their teachers clap for them was an uplifting—if novel—experience.

“Walking through the corridor was a bit overwhelming, but it was nice to see the faculty and staff take the time to welcome everyone,” first-year student Tiernan O’Neal said.

“It was overwhelming, but also uplifting,” Elaine Darbey, O’Neal’s friend and fellow first-year student, said. “It felt great seeing all the faculty and everyone applauding us.”

From the corridor, the students filed into the competition gym, where a stage had been set up for speakers representing students, faculty, alumni, and administrative leadership.

Noah Dion, Ph.D., director of Academic Support Services, welcomed the incoming students to their new academic home. “Some of you are entering higher education for the first time and some of you are coming to us from another college or university,” he said. “Either way, we are excited to have you join us as the newest members of our university community. You belong here.”

President Barry M. Maloney challenged students to stay on track with their education to help contain the cost of earning their degrees. “First-years, I am going to ask you to set a goal for yourself to graduate in four years,” he said. “Now, we don’t always meet our goals; that’s okay. But it’s important to set them.”

Maloney advised transfer students to try to earn their degrees in as little time as possible. “If you are a transfer student, you have already proven that you can ‘do college,’” he said. “I encourage you to keep doing it and earn that bachelor’s degree.”

Student Government President Karen Shalev told the students that the tremendous variety of experience they bring to WSU is an asset to the campus community. “No matter how your story begins, you are now part of the Lancer family and are so valued for who you are,” she said. “Being who you are is an asset. Whether you are first-generation American like me, a first-generation college student, an international student, or nontraditional, your life experience enriches our campus and offers you a unique perspective based on your lived experiences.”

Alumni speaker, Geovanna Diaz Chavez ’12, M.A., ’14, said her time at Worcester State was a “holistic” educational and professional development experience that prepared her well for the workforce upon graduation. “This university is awesome. It gives everyone a chance and the resources to succeed. You just have to take advantage of it,” she said.

That message struck a chord with Darbey and likely many other students as well. “I found the alumni speaker inspiring, especially when she mentioned how, after she got her bachelor’s degree, she went on to get her master’s degree,” Darbey said. “It was so great to see someone that used to be in our shoes become a success.”

Faculty speaker Kathryn Frazier, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, told the students about a life-changing inscription she found on a mug she received as a gift at a new-student welcoming event back when she started college. The inscription read “Incipit vita nova,” which roughly translates to “Here begins a new life.”

“Those three Latin words spoke to my hopes, goals, and dreams for what college would be like—a chance to try new things, to indulge your curiosities, to get out of your comfort zone and to start on a path toward the person and life you’ve always wanted,” she said.

Emma Polak ’24, a Presidential Student Ambassador who handed out programs at the event, said the Convocation Ceremony has a special significance. “It’s so important to be able to look around and see so many people starting the same journey as you are,” she said. “I believe that it fosters a strong sense of community and camaraderie, and that sense of community is what makes WSU feel like home for so many of our students.”

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