Thousands of California State University, Northridge freshmen packed the lawn in front of the Delmar T. Oviatt Library on Sept. 14 for Freshman Convocation, an annual event that formally welcomes first-year students to CSUN.
The event included a welcome from CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison and a keynote address by activist Bree Newsome. The themes of the night included perseverance and empowerment for the Class of 2021. An estimated 2,500 students participated in this year’s convocation.
In her remarks, President Harrison told the new freshmen that they make up the future of the country.
“As Matadors, you represent an educated, reasoned perspective,” Harrison said. “You represent diversity, you represent inclusion, and these are values that we share at CSUN. We believe that they are indispensable to a peaceful, responsible and prosperous society. They are values that we hope you will carry with you as you move on to new opportunities and horizons after you graduate.”
Newsome was chosen as keynote speaker to complement the freshman class’ common reading selection, Between the World and Me, a book that focuses on race in America from the perspective of author Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“Between the World and Me is a powerful book to read because it is deeply personal, and yet universal writing at the same time,” Newsome said. “In it, he writes a letter to his son, but the audience in this letter is the whole world. In his open letter, he is detailing his personal experiences as a black man navigating the world around him — yet there’s a universality to his journey, which is questioning and reflecting.”
The keynote speaker gained national attention when she climbed up the flagpole on the South Carolina State House grounds in 2015 and removed the Confederate flag that flew there.
Newsome encouraged the CSUN freshmen to be unafraid, to stand up for their beliefs and to walk their own paths.
“Each person in this space represents a different path,” she said. “There are over a thousand different life paths that are represented here that we each walked and led us to being here at this moment.”
During her visit at CSUN, Newsome also held a lecture earlier in the day at the Plaza Del Sol at the University Student Union, discussing her experiences and civil rights activism.
Braulio Diaz ’17 (Engineering) was chosen as the student speaker for the convocation. He was one of this year’s Outstanding Graduating Seniors. Diaz encouraged students to participate on campus and to take chances on bettering their time at the university.
“This is a new start for all of you — make it the best,” he told the audience. “Do not do anything that could jeopardize this beautiful opportunity. My experience at CSUN has changed my life for the better, and I know that it can change yours. CSUN taught me how to think and question. It also taught me how to lead and work with others.”
Diaz, an undocumented student, also spoke out against social injustice. He told the CSUN students that they must move forward and be courageous. In response, the audience gave him a roaring ovation.
President Harrison also presented the 2017 Dianne F. Harrison Leadership Award to Jea Bondoc, a business major from last year’s freshman class. Bondoc achieved a 3.98 grade point average and participated in several on-campus clubs and activities, such as the Accounting Association, Filipino Student Organization and New Student Orientation leadership.
Harrison told the new Matadors that they are the future and will be the change the world needs.
“You bring all of us at CSUN hope and optimism for our future,” Harrison said. “I encourage you to keep up with the great work you are already doing, continue those successful habits in college and continue to make good decisions.”