The Journey Begins

Photos by Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

2,000 new students launch UMKC careers at Convocation

Caps and gowns, bagpipes and drums; new colors, new bling. A new journey, launched with a new mindset.

This was the stuff of Convocation, the annual launch of their new collegiate career for incoming freshmen and transfer students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. At this year’s event, more than 2,000 newcomers donned their new school T-shirts, affixed their kangaroo pins, signed their class banner and pledged their “commitment to our own academic success, and engagement with our great city.”

Faculty, administrators and upperclassmen dispensed advice, encouragement and inspiration during the hour-long traditional ceremony.

“You are the newest in a long and proud line of Roos. This is one of the few days we engage in a bit of ‘pomp and circumstance’ and there’s a reason why we do. We want you to have a sense of your lineage, the ranks of scholars and leaders you are joining,” said Chancellor Leo E. Morton. “This is an opportunity for discovery. But I tell you, the secret to discovery, to learning, isn’t things. It is people. It is the relationships you will forge. It is the richness of experience and the pleasure of new acquaintances, the opportunity to meet all kinds of people and really get to know them. That is what makes this school a real gift to you.”

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, Ph.D., shared her secret to achievement and success, derived from the research of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck.
Quoting from Dweck’s book “Mindset,” she said “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”

“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone – the fixed mindset – creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over…,” the quote continued. “There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with… In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts… everyone can change and grow through application and exercise… Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times of their lives.”

Bichelmeyer then applied the quote to the students’ situation.

“At UMKC, you will engage in your own research, and as you do, you will come to understand that the ultimate value of research is not the particular outcome of any given study; rather, the true value of research is that it is the process that teaches you how to ask your own questions and find your own answers, and ultimately, it is the way in which we learn. Learning how to research, learning how to find answers to your own questions, learning how to learn, will prepare you to face every new challenge that will ever come your way in life,” Bichelmeyer said. “Please commit today to develop a ‘growth’ mindset, to explore the varieties of knowledge, to engage with the community, and to learn as much as you possibly can during your career as a student here.”

Student Government President Ida Ayalew, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences majoring in Philosophy with a minor in Black Studies, told the new students to look inside themselves for a source of strength.

“You can choose to be either your greatest asset or your biggest enemy, but the only thing that stands between you and success, is you. Empower yourself to be successful, because you are the most influential person in your life,” she said. “Most of the people along the way will tell you ‘no’. Let them say it! Their discouragement of your success usually stems from their own insecurities and failures … Never tell yourself ‘no,’ because when you refuse yourself the chance, you lose the opportunity of ‘Yes!’—of success.”

Faculty speaker Laurie Ellinghausen, Ph.D., an associate professor of English, explained why UMKC has been the most rewarding place she has taught in her academic career.

“You will find that UMKC does not shy away from diversity but embraces it, welcoming students of all backgrounds and circumstances. The result, I have found, is a student body rich in wisdom and life experience,” she said. “Moreover, and particularly rewarding for me as a teacher, is the fact that our students come with a sense of open-mindedness and a spirit of adventure. In the classroom, my students hold my feet to the fire by expecting that every assignment be worthwhile; in turn, I expect that they give each assignment their best, approaching it with curiosity and a willingness be challenged.”

She urged the students to understand the difference between mere job training, and a true education.

“Job training focuses on a goal – yes, a worthy and important goal – but one that applies a kind of tunnel vision to the gathering of knowledge, sorting what is immediately useful from what seems at first glance not to be useful. Education, on the other hand, applies a wider, broader perspective to those goals, incorporating questions of what it means to be a full human being, not just a name on an office door,” Ellinghausen said. “The liberal arts in particular – that is, the humanities, like art and music; the social sciences, like psychology and sociology; and the natural sciences, like chemistry and geology – encourage a sense of personhood, a discovery of the thinker and the soul within, that exists above and beyond a paycheck.

“Job training is narrow. Education, by contrast, incorporates job training, but also encourages the process of becoming, a process that prepares you not only for work, but family life, friendship, hobbies, and citizenship. Education grows a person – one full of passion, knowledge, and perspective beyond what’s reflected on a business card,” concluded Ellinghausen.

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