First-years get official welcome to U

Approximately 300 volunteers planned Convocation for the class of 2009.

Emma Carew

This tassel represents one of the reasons you are here today,” said University President Bob Bruininks.

The class of 2009 ripped open 5,200 envelopes containing maroon and gold tassels on Tuesday afternoon in Northrop Auditorium during its official University welcome.

Bruininks; Sarah Solfelt, a 2004 Carlson School of Management graduate; Daniel Kelliher, a political science professor; and Lisa Pugh, a first-year fisheries and wildlife student, spoke to the class. The speakers welcomed them, gave some advice, and wished them luck.

Solfelt stressed two points in her speech. She challenged the students of the class of 2009 to get involved on campus and step out of their comfort zones, but also reminded them to stay true to themselves.

In an interview prior to Convocation, she said, “Stand up for what you believe in. Stand firm in what you know is true.”

She also said she hoped students would come away from Convocation with a sense of pride. “They should be proud to be a Gopher,” she said. “They should say, ‘I made the right choice.’ “

Pugh also spoke of challenges, but reminded students to challenge not only themselves, but also their peers and the faculty around them.

Bruininks took a moment to recognize the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and reminded students of the University’s mission to give back to the community.

“Through your gifts and contributions, try to help people who have been displaced,” he said.

Bruininks formally welcomed the Class of 2009 to a heritage that runs back more than 150 years. He said students should find balance between studies, campus involvement and giving back to the community.

Convocation began in 1997 as a way to create greater class spirit, said Linda Ellinger, co-chair of the Northrop activities.

Convocation is the only time the class will be together until graduation, and is a good way to kick off the year, she said.

Marching band member Anna Dibley said, “I think Convocation is an important part of initiating the new students into the culture of the University.”

Drum major Dick Osterberg sang with a brass quintet to teach the freshman class the words to “Hail! Minnesota.”

About 300 volunteers planned Convocation for most of the past year, said LeeAnn Melin, co-chairwoman for New Student Convocation. The Office of First Year Programs, Office of Admissions, Office of the Provost and Student Activities have all been included in the process, she said.

“(Convocation is) like the bookend to graduation,” Melin said. “It’s the official start of their college education.”

The formal ceremony at Northrop Auditorium, which included a procession of faculty members in their academic robes, was followed by a free barbeque and festivities at Coffman Union.

The University’s marching band, Radio K, spoken word group Voices Merging, vocalist Greg Froehle, a cappella group 7 Days, and fraternities Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi provided entertainment for the event.

First-year student Tatum Bishop said, “(Convocation) was very interesting, because the last time I was (at Northrop Auditorium) was for (high school) graduation, when I was presented as the Class of 2005. Today, we were the Class of 2009.”