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August 27, 2010

It’s official: Convocation 2010 announces start of new academic year

Spirits soared at Fant-Ewing Coliseum on Wednesday, Aug. 25, as University of Louisiana at Monroe students, administration and staff celebrated the start of another academic year and welcomed the Freshman Class of 2010 to Convocation.

ULM’s Sound of Today rocked the house, Warhawk cheerleaders performed acrobatic feats and the Hawkline bounced rhythmically to strains of “Rollin’ on the River,” as the freshmen and other student organizations filled the coliseum. ULM Interim President Stephen Richters and the college deans took the stage in full academic regalia to mark the solemnity of the occasion, while images of campus life filled the giant screen behind them.

The annual tradition began, as always, beneath the ULM Library Bell Tower, led by ROTC members bearing their flags in the late-afternoon march across Bayou DeSiard bridge, ablaze with maroon and gold balloons. Ace, the Warhawk Mascot, zipped along in his Acemobile and waved to several passers-by, as hundreds marched to Fant-Ewing and celebrated the newest members of the ULM family. Each student was given a ULM pin to keep as a symbol of their journey.

Quoting poet William Butler Yeats who said, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire," Richters told the students that they would indeed ignite the fire within themselves during their years at ULM, but they would not be doing it alone.

"Strangers will become friends. Faculty will challenge you. You will confirm some long-held beliefs, and you will question others,” he said. “One thing is certain, you will be a changed person (in four years).”

Keynote speaker, Stephen F. Black, grandson of the late Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black and founder of the service organization Impact Alabama, reminded students that they were no longer passive receivers of education. Because of this fact, he said, the students bore a certain responsibility to have a “transcendent effect on the lives of others.”

"You get to redefine who you are in any way you want to. You get to thoughtfully consider what kind of adult you want to be,” Black said. “The opportunities are endless. The most important challenge that faces you ... is not the recession, but a 40-year-old trend toward civic and social discontent."

Black challenged students to lead ethical lives, aimed at purposes far beyond their own self-interests.

“I am excited about the potential this room full of people could make on, literally, thousands of other human beings,” he said. “Four years from now, what kind of story and culture will your class have told? You are not too young to be an expert in whatever it is you care about.”

The academic emphasis of the occasion did not overshadow additional reasons to celebrate, as new ULM Head Football Coach Todd Berry encouraged students to support their Warhawk football team through a winning season.

“All of us together make this place special,” he said. “The more you get involved, the more special this place is going to be.”

Brook Sebren, ULM’s Student Government Association president, also encouraged his peers to get involved in collegiate activities and invited the crowd to enjoy the ice-cream social on the floor of the coliseum to denote that 2010 Convocation had come to conclusion.

Convocation is tied to a freshman-required seminar, according to Convocation Chair and Director of University Retention Barbara Michaelides. Several student groups who help incoming freshman familiarize themselves with campus life play a significant role in the ceremony, she explained.

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