The University of New Orleans Class of 2021 came together on Monday to launch the 2017-18 school year with a formal convocation, dinner and games at the UNO Lakefront Arena—the same venue where they will eventually receive their degrees.
President John Nicklow congratulated the new students on taking “a leap toward enrichment, toward serious intellectual growth and toward being an educated contributor to the future of our nation and our fragile world.”
“Make no mistake,” he said, “our expectations of you are high.”
Faculty donned their academic regalia for the occasion. Students took their seats wearing blue New Orleans Privateers T-shirts. The freshmen class includes students from 27 states, 32 Louisiana parishes and 16 countries.
Martin Smith, assistant provost for admissions and enrollment management, told the freshmen their class boasts an average 3.1 GPA and an average ACT composite score of 23, two points above the national average. Smith, like Nicklow, told the students that their academic careers will undoubtedly include some challenges. But these difficulties should not be feared.
“Challenge yourself every day,” he said. “Set lofty goals. Never give up. Even when things get tough, keep on trying. You’ve accepted that first challenge by becoming a Privateer and I’m confident that you will achieve great things at UNO and beyond.”
Student Government Association President Nigel Watkins encouraged students to move beyond their comfort zones as they become a part of the University. With 120 student organizations and numerous events on and off campus, the opportunities are boundless.
“It’s not just about joining a new club,” Watkins said. “It’s about rounding out your resume. It’s about learning how to be a leader. But most important of all, it’s about building our community.”
Mara Kramer of Richmond, Va., didn’t need the advice, it seems.
Though she was drawn to UNO for its distinguished Naval Architecture and Martin Engineering program, Kramer said she was already pleased with her decision—and classes hadn’t yet started.
“I’ve made a bunch of friends pretty fast,” she said as she headed from the seating area to the floor of the arena, where dinner and games awaited. In only a few days, Kramer said, the friends she’d made were making plans to form a club for table-top role-playing games enthusiasts. On top of that, she said, she was excited to hear several speakers encouraging students to get to know their professors and to make use of those academic relationships.
Convocation was just one of several events held to welcome students to campus since they began moving into dorms on Saturday. Other events included a Jazz Brunch at the Sandbar, a sand volleyball match, a Fall Concert at the Amphitheatre, and, on Tuesday night, a planned fireworks display.
Classes start Wednesday at UNO with many additional opportunities designed to encourage student involvement, leadership and wellness.
Privateer Plunge, a series of events held over the next six weeks, provide opportunities for students to get to meet other students, professors and administrators while taking part in activities that are designed to support students in all their pursuits, including academics, health and wellness, community service and cultural opportunities. Students who attend at least 12 events in those first six weeks are eligible for prizes.