New Student Convocation Speech – Fall 2019

Good morning new students. It is a pleasure to be here today to celebrate the beginning of the next chapter in your life here at UA Little Rock. I want to say a few words about what you can expect while you are with us, but first a word about why you are here in this auditorium today.

An academic convocation is a solemn ceremony that invokes centuries of tradition in higher education. It signifies a coming together of the members of the academy for a ceremonial purpose. A student convocation is typically the first formal gathering of an academic class and marks a new beginning.

Today’s celebration marks the beginning of your academic journey at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The faculty and platform party that you see before you are dressed in their academic regalia. Our robes represent the tradition of recognizing academic accomplishment with the distinguished cap and gown dress passed down from the earliest universities of the 12th century. The colorful hoods that you see that drape behind them represent the highest degree that our faculty have attained from finest universities around the world. So, as you take in the experience of this convocation today, I invite you to fully embrace your new membership in the academy. It is special and it is worthy of your best efforts.

So now on to what you can expect during your time here. The college experience is about learning, it’s about opportunity, but most fundamentally it is about transformation. You should expect to be a different person when you leave than when you arrived. Now some of you may feel a bit resistant to that idea. You may be thinking, I like who I am, I don’t want to change into someone else. But it’s not about changing your essence–your core, it’s about understanding yourself better, understanding others in your world better. It’s about expanding your capabilities by expanding your knowledge base and your tool box for problem-solving and creative productivity. It’s about becoming more disciplined, training your brain for agility and strength, the way you would train for athletic competition. In a word, it’s about empowerment. This college experience will transform you into someone who has the personal and professional resources to write the next chapter of your life as the success story that we know it can be.

And what can you expect from us? First I will tell you that our faculty members are more than their degrees; they are more than the ceremonial robes they wear to convocation and commencement. Our faculty members are talented teachers, accomplished scholars, helpful advisors, and dedicated mentors who stand ready to help you reach your goals. Our staff members are equally dedicated to reaching out and providing a wide variety of services to facilitate your progress and create a first rate learning environment. You should also expect some challenges. It is our responsibility to engage you in the process of becoming the best you that you can be. We are here to provide you with the tools for success, but we will challenge you to push beyond what you thought you could do and to stick with it. We are here to provide high impact learning experiences, but we will challenge you to take these experiences beyond the classroom and apply them to life and work outside the classroom. We are here to provide opportunity in myriad ways, but we will challenge you to seize it.

Most universities have as part of their mission the unfettered pursuit of truth and knowledge and UA Little Rock is no different. But the most important change you can strive for is developing the ability to pursue your own truth; and by that I mean truly knowing who you are and what is important in the world. At the beginning of this speech, I used the word “chapter” very intentionally because while we expect that your UA Little Rock chapter will culminate in your graduation, we don’t want you to think of that milestone as an ending, but rather as the beginning of the next chapter. It matters what you do in this chapter. And make no mistake, even though life will throw at you everything it’s got, you are still the author of your life story. Find what is worthy of your life’s pursuit. Even if you change directions, change majors, change yourself even–discover what is important. That will be the ultimate transformational experience.

Thank you, and I wish you all great adventures in the days ahead.

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