Convocation urges students to explore city, themselves


Maria Cardona

Incoming students enjoy Columbia’s Convocation Sept. 2 where Singer Rahkii performed her song “Beautiful.” By the end of her song, Orientation leaders surprised students with gold confetti.

By Campus Editor

This year’s New Student Convocation was the first step of freshman cinema art + science major Brandon Gassel’s adventure into Columbia—a journey where he is hoping to “become a part of something bigger than himself,” he said.

Gassel and other students were encouraged to stay true to themselves and make the most of their Columbia experience during the annual New Student Convocation Sept. 2 in Grant Park.

Gold confetti was shot into the air and rained down on new and continuing students as they danced, clapped and sang along to songs such as “Work” by Rihanna as part of the celebration.

While listening to Columbia’s key players welcome them into the college community, students and parents had the opportunity to check out more than 80 booths spread throughout the park, representing student organizations, clubs and resources.

Before faculty, students and administrators addressed the crowd, attendees mingled in the heat while others sat below white and yellow picnic table umbrellas.

President & CEO Kwang-Wu Kim shook hands as he introduced himself to students, and Residence Life Director Mary Oakes ran and high-fived student resident advisors.

Orientation leader and junior fashion studies major Ava Thommen, the first to address the crowd, said Convocation helps students find their creative selves.

“[Convocation] is our way of welcoming you to the Columbia family,” Thommen said.

Kim advised students to make the first move when they meet someone new or are presented with a new opportunity, urging them to engage and take advantage of those chances.

“We like to say that everything you need to be successful is here, but it’s not going to be handed to you,” Kim said. “You [have to] find it. You [have to] reach out.” Kim emphasized that Columbia is a college where there is no right or wrong way to be, and students should not feel pressured to fit in.

“We fundamentally believe the more difference that characterizes our community, the better place we are,” Kim said. “This is a place that’s about coming to terms with your most authentic self and your most authentic voice. What you do and what you make is a true reflection of who you are and what you believe in.”

Kaela Ritter, Student Government Association president and senior business & entrepreneurship major, welcomed students on behalf of her organization and encouraged them to think outside the box and be bold. Ritter said college is a time to be selfish in a positive way by following passions and networking with peers.

“This is a space for you to create your world,” Ritter said. “You’re about to relearn yourself.”

She also encouraged students to “get out of the Loop” and take advantage of their U-Passes to get to know Chicago.

The crowd also heard from Greg FosterRice, associate professor in the Photography Department and Faculty Senate president, who urged students to always reach out to faculty, even ones outside their departments.

Interim Vice President of Student Success Sharon Wilson-Taylor—who spoke in the place of former administrator Mark Kelly, the main Convocation speaker for decades—said students should remember faculty and staff are willing to help them. “You should never try to figure out anything on your own,” Wilson-Taylor said.

Alex Adams, a freshman design major, said she was most excited about meeting new people inside and outside her field of study. “[Convocation] is not like a boring seminar,” Adams said. “It’s a good way to get out and explore the city.”

Before students started exploring what Columbia offers, 2015 theatre alumna Rahkii Jones presented “Beautiful,” Columbia’s official song. “Beautiful” speaks about staying true to yourself and loving who you are and what you do, Jones said. She said Columbia is an inspirational and encouraging space for students to follow their dreams.

“Convocation is hype,” Jones said. “[It gives you] the energy you need to make it through the year.”