With a clear vision toward 2020, more than 800 incoming Stanislaus State freshmen gathered in the University Amphitheater Monday morning for the University’s first Freshman Convocation since 2004.
“We brought you together in the amphitheater 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 establish 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 and strange, understand that your professors here are among the best in the state,” Junn said. “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 group photo and a welcome fair in the University Quad.
All of the speakers touched on similar themes, including the need for students to stay motivated and to take advantage of the opportunities and assistance available to Stan State students.
“We know that if college were easy, everyone would be a college graduate,” said Suzanne Espinoza, vice president for enrollment and student affairs. “What you will accomplish at Stanislaus State will be what sets you apart in your future endeavors.”
University Provost James Strong likened the four-year undergraduate academic journey to that of an Olympic athlete.
“Do you think those athletes were gold medal-ready on their first day of training? Of course not,” Strong said. “Their journey to the Olympics was achieved in thousands of small steps and that also will be the case with your journey here at Stan State.”
Alumni speakers Adrian Harrell and Edgar Garcia both shared personal insights from their days as Stan State students in their addresses to the incoming students.
“Your education begins today and will start taking place when you engage with others,” said Harrell, a 1998 Stan State graduate who is chair of the Alumni 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.”
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.”
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.”