Over 3,900 freshmen students and their families were warmly welcomed by Utah Valley University officials at the first-ever Freshman Convocation held on Monday, Aug. 28, filling about three-fourths of the UCCU Center in Orem. The event was the first of its kind among Utah’s colleges and universities, in an effort to deliver the significance of higher education to freshman students.
A UVU faculty and staff processional began at 6 p.m., followed by a video that emphasized ‘engaged learning’ at UVU, a focus the institution is known for promoting to students. The video noted that 33,395 students were enrolled at UVU last year.
Michelle Taylor, UVU associate vice president of enrollment, spoke at the podium first, standing in front of eight green flags that represented each of the colleges and schools at Utah Valley University. “Tonight is about introducing you to the opportunities in front of you, so that you may gain a sense of purpose and pride as you embark on your journey as a UVU Wolverine,” Taylor said.
Antonio Palacios, 18, an incoming freshman from Westlake High School, sat in the front row for the full experience. “So far, college has just been full of surprises, things here and there. I thought it would be another fun surprise that UVU had in store.”
President Matthew Holland took the stage next, presenting with Daniel Fairbanks, associate dean at UVU and sculptor. Fairbanks comes from four generations of artists and sculpted the face of Thomas Jefferson as Holland spoke to the freshman class.
“This is the first time we’ve done anything like this, you are the inaugural class of the Freshman Convocation and we are so excited,” said Holland. “I am thrilled to see so many parents here, the support. I am just so delighted.”
Brice Martinez, 18, a recent graduate of Itineris High School in West Jordan, invited her family to attend Freshman Convocation along with her. Martinez thought the event would be a fun way to meet new people as well.
Wearing a green and blue striped tie, Holland appealed to students on a personal note, poking fun at his upbringing with baby and childhood pictures. The crowd laughed as Holland remarked on an old picture of himself where he said he was going through his “Pee-wee Herman phase.”
Though Holland’s presentation took on a more serious tone when he spoke of the expectations he holds for incoming students.
“UVU has high standards and expectations,” Holland said. “When you come into these classrooms, we are going to push you and challenge you. We are really serious about providing a first-rate education for you and you’ll have to step up and meet us halfway to achieve that level of student success.”
Holland spoke of a book that he received as a child from his parents about Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence. He said Jefferson taught him that all men are created equal, meaning that no one has a natural bit of authority to rule over another person, relating the idea back to how he feels about the UVU experience as the school’s president.
Closing his remarks, Holland invited Cory Duckworth, UVU vice president of student affairs, to address the freshman students. “Tonight is one of those rare moments where you have the opportunity to contemplate your future and to make a decision about how you will choose to respond to certain circumstances that you have not yet faced,” said Duckworth.
Duckworth asked students to fill out a UVCommit Pledge, a card that was placed underneath all of the students’ seats. Students were asked to pledge to finish their college education at Utah Valley University.
Student Body President Chad Workman, wearing a green UVU t-shirt, was next on stage and introduced Willy the Wolverine to the crowd. Workman also presented the Green Man Group, who performed and led the crowd outside to the south of the building.
A barbecue was held immediately following Freshman Convocation in Brent Brown Ballpark, wrapping up the event.
David Whitaker, a new freshman majoring in business management said of the event, “It was good, it was lot of Jefferson and you can tell it’s [President Holland’s] hobby.”
Kylee Chapa, 18, a freshman pre-nursing student at UVU, said she enjoyed President Holland’s remarks. “I loved the way he used President Jefferson in it, that was really awesome. He was able to incorporate it into his whole sense of UVU and what it’s all about.”
UVU administration are hoping to make Freshman Convocation an annual tradition.