Fall 2016 incoming freshmen pose for group photo after convocation.
With the largest freshman class in Stanislaus State history (more than 1,400) arriving on campus this fall, it was fitting that the Freshman Convocation — a formal ceremony prior to the first day of classes — called on two alumni to share wisdom from their own days as Warriors.
“Your education begins today and will start taking place when you engage with others,” said Adrian Harrell, a 1998 Stan State graduate who is chair of the Alumni Advisory Council. “If you connect with your teachers and with alumni outside the classroom, I promise that opportunities will arise that otherwise you would have known nothing about.”
Edgar Garcia, who graduated this past May with degrees in criminal justice and political science, asked the students to recognize and accept the transformational experience of being a college student.
“The person this institution helps you become may be somebody you don’t recognize right now,” Garcia said. “This University has accepted you and it’s going to push you and push you until you accept yourself.”
With a clear vision toward a 2020 graduation, more than half the incoming Stanislaus State freshmen gathered in the University Amphitheater on Monday, Aug. 22, for the University’s first Freshman Convocation since 2004.
“We brought you together today because we hope all of you assemble here in this venue again in four years with your caps and gowns so we can present you with your degrees,” said Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn, addressing her first formal ceremony since taking the helm July 1.
One of Junn’s first moves as president was to reestablish the ceremony for incoming freshman as a way not only to institute a new University tradition but — most important — to make sure the incoming students feel welcome at their new home.
“Even though the college experience, at first, may be a little bit different, understand that your professors here are among the best in the state,” said Junn, alluding to the fact that more than 80 percent of Stan State professors hold a Ph.D. or a terminal degree in their chosen field. “Don’t be afraid of failure. Your professors have high expectations of you, but they also are there to help you.”
Several speakers addressed the students in the hour-long ceremony, which was followed by an incoming Class of 2020 group photo and a welcome fair in the University Quad. The speakers touched on inspirational themes, including the need for students to stay motivated and to take advantage of the opportunities and assistance available to Stan State students.
“The event today has helped me realize the kind of opportunities and experiences that the future may offer me,” said freshman Ezekiel Zuniga, as he visited information booths from academic departments and student organizations at the welcome fair.
But Junn likely said it best when she addressed the need for each student to accept the responsibilities that come with earning a college degree. She pointed out the simple mathematics of completing 15 units for eight semesters to finish a degree program in four years, and acknowledged that there are support systems in place to assist all students, including academic and peer advising, a tutoring center and a faculty mentor program.
“I want you to think of the single person who will have the biggest impact on your success here at Stan State,” Junn said. “It’s yourself. You are the most important person because it’s you who has to go to class, do the reading, study, write papers, take exams and take the final. You are in control of your destiny.”