Hundreds of people filled the University of New Orleans Performing Arts Center Tuesday evening, Aug. 16, to mark the beginning of the fall 2016 semester with New Student Convocation.
It was standing room only as faculty, staff and alumni surrounded new students with words of welcome and encouragement before celebrating the start of a new school year with a cookout and tons of conversation. Faculty donned their academic regalia for the occasion.
“You should be proud that you’ve taken a leap,” UNO President John Nicklow told the students gathered. “A leap toward enrichment, toward serious intellectual growth, and toward being an educated contributor to the future of our nation and our fragile world.”
Nicklow cautioned, however, that being in college is not cause enough for self-satisfaction. This is a time, he said, during which students should be prepared to make sacrifices and work diligently.
“You intellect will be challenged,” he said. “But that is not something to fear. Embrace it and focus on your ability to persist. It is all part of higher learning, and you would not be here if we weren’t confident in your ability to succeed.”
Christy Heaton, director of orientation and first-year programs, said it was exciting to see such enthusiasm and student-focused support on display during the convocation. Heaton's office joined forces with Academic Affairs as well as Dale O'Neill and LeeAnne Sipe, director and assistant director of Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, to organize the event. The after-party cookout organized by O'Neill and Sipe provided a fun outlet for students, staff and faculty to mix ahead of the start of classes.
“I hope students see that UNO faculty, staff and administrators are truly invested in their success here,” Heaton said.
In addition to celebrating the start of a new academic year, UNO’s First Year Experience and Alpha Lambda Delta presented the “First Year Advocate” awards to a faculty member and a staff member who have made significant contributions to the academic and personal lives of UNO’s first-year students.
Enjillee Dunn, academic and intern advisor in the College of Business Administration, and Yvette Green, associate professor of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration, were this year’s honorees. Dunn has assisted UNO students for over 15 years and was described as “personable, passionate, and knowledgeable about the university.” Green, whose interaction with students begins right when they enter the university, was lauded for her “contagious enthusiasm.”
They were chosen based on nominations made by first-year students and endorsed by faculty and staff from across the institution. Dunn and Green’s names will be added to a plaque on display in UNO’s Student Success Center.
Students also learned about “Enrique’s Journey,” by Sonia Nazario, UNO’s Common Read selection for the 2016-17 school year. It’s a tale first chronicled in a Pulitzer Prize-winning six-part series published in the Los Angeles Times in 2002, that follows a Honduran boy’s perilous trip across the U.S. border to find his mother. As part of the experience, Nazario will speak at UNO’s University Center Ballroom on Sept. 20.
Common Read was developed as a way to encourage first-year students as well as other UNO students staff and faculty, to engage in a shared experience while sparking meaningful dialogue about topics of wide-reaching concern. It is organized collaboratively as a partnership between the University’s first-year writing program and its first-year experience program.
“College is a truly transformative experience if you are open to growing, learning and getting involved in activities on campus,” Nicklow said. “I am looking forward to the next time the deans and I are on stage in our regalia, and I’m speaking to you just as I am now. Because that will mean we are at your commencement ceremony, where I will be about to shake your hand as you walk across the stage and receive your well-deserved bachelor’s degree.”