As the sun began to set over the CSUN Library lawn on Sept. 12, an estimated 1,800 freshmen and transfer students took their seats for the 2019 New Student Convocation.
Like CSUN’s commencement ceremonies each May, New Student Convocation takes place on the library lawn. Faculty and staff wear their academic regalia, giving students a taste — and perhaps inspiration — of the pomp and circumstance that awaits them when they complete their degree.
After the CSUN Jazz “A” Band performed the national anthem, President Dianne F. Harrison and Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students William Watkins warmly welcomed the new students to campus.
Harrison reminded the new Matadors that they had “what it takes to be successful” and also provided three words of advice:
“Go to class,” she said.
“There really is a connection between attendance and doing well academically,” Harrison added. “Give yourself that simple advantage of being present in class, physically and mentally.”
Keynote speaker Lauren Markham, author of this year’s Freshman Common Reading book “The Far Away Brothers,” addressed students as the sun slipped below the horizon. Markham’s nonfiction book chronicles the journey of Salvadoran identical twin brothers who escaped violence in their home country and aimed to build new lives in California.
Markham spoke philosophically about immigration, about how people have relocated to find new opportunities and to escape war since the beginning of human history. She said the students sitting across from her on the library lawn have the power to change attitudes and policies, and she encouraged students to help reframe the discussion by speaking of those searching for new opportunities in positive terms.
“Our human currency is words, ” Markham said. “Words have the power to change minds, to lift spirits, to open eyes, to carry us into worlds that allow us to be more fully alive.”
This year’s convocation also featured a speech by former CSUN Associated Students President Beverly Ntagu ’19 (Psychology); a presentation to CSUN student Julyssa Renteria, who received the 2019 Dianne F. Harrison Leadership Award; and the new class’ first opportunity to sing the CSUN alma mater, “Hail to the Matadors,” written by alumnus Richard Kaufman in 1977.
New Student Orientation leaders had guided the new class on a symbolic journey to convocation — marching past the Matador statue and filing into their seats on the library lawn — to help build unity and teach the new Matadors about campus symbols and rituals. At the end of the program, President Harrison invited the students to climb the Library Grand Staircase, as a symbolic gesture as they began their campus learning. In the library portico, the students had the chance to meet and mingle with faculty from their respective colleges, as well as college deans and student leaders.
This year’s freshman class is scheduled to graduate in 2023, and the transfer class is set to cross the commencement stage in 2021.