Virginia Commonwealth University’s newest Rams received a distinctively rowdy introduction to the university on Tuesday at the annual New Student Convocation and Spirit Walk, the traditional official welcome for incoming freshmen and transfer students at VCU.
At the convocation, which was held in the Stuart C. Siegel Center, university leaders offered advice for navigating the years ahead, but the chief message overwhelmingly was one of excitement at the students’ arrival.
“Welcome to VCU,” said Gail Hackett, Ph.D., provost and vice president of academic affairs. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., called the convocation gathering the largest he has seen at the event. In all, more than 6,100 freshmen and transfer students are starting classes at VCU this fall.
Rao urged the students to seek out challenges during their time on campus.
“You are members of a learning community steeped in a long tradition of creativity with the immense drive to tackle the challenges that people face with unwavering tenacity,” Rao said.
Destinee Moragne, president of the Monroe Park Campus Student Government Association, said falling down occasionally would be a part of the student experience, but “your mistakes don’t determine your path.” In fact, Rao said, mistakes will be some of the best opportunities for learning, noting that astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “I love being wrong because that means in that instant I learned something new that day.”
“If a world-renowned astrophysicist admits to make mistakes and being OK with it, you can, too,” Rao said.
Hackett offered students a series of secrets to college success, such as going to class, getting to know faculty and putting in the hours of study necessary to excel. She also reminded students that they were surrounded by faculty, staff and fellow students ready to help.
“We want for you to be successful,” she said.
Rao said the incoming students will bring their own unique interests, drive and knowledge to VCU, helping the university community grow and thrive in new ways.
“Every single one of us — myself included — are here to learn,” he said. “You inspire us to learn. While you will learn a lot at VCU, we’re going to learn a lot from you. Through your scholarship, creativity and tenacity, you will shape the university and further VCU’s international reputation for being one of the greatest universities in the world. Even as undergraduates, you are the biggest part of what makes this university great.”
Following convocation, VCU cheerleaders and the Peppas, the university’s pep band, led new students on the Spirit Walk, traveling from the Siegel Center in a large crowd of black and gold down Harrison Street into the center of campus. Older students, alumni, faculty and staff lined the way and met the newcomers on campus for a block party with food and other fun.
The convocation, Spirit Walk and block party served as a centerpiece for the university’s Welcome Week, a packed schedule of activities and events designed to help new students adapt to college life and the VCU campus. Welcome Week lasts through Aug. 27.