Photos by Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications
The University of Missouri-Kansas City greeted approximately 2,000 new students – incoming freshmen and transfers – in a ceremony Sunday that welcomed them not just to campus, but to a community of learners.
Convocation is a ceremony intended to serve as a “bookend” to graduation, setting a tone of both warm welcome and high expectations for new students. Faculty and administrators in full academic regalia marched into Swinney Recreation Center for the occasion, accompanied by bagpipes and drums. New students accepted and attached their new kangaroo pins, a symbol of their induction into the UMKC community and, as Student Government Association President Danny Riffel told the group, “a symbol of your investment in UMKC, in yourself, and in the world.”
Dr. Miguel Carranza, Director of the Latina/Latino Studies Program and Professor of Sociology & Latina/Latino Studies, directed the new students to introduce themselves to those on their immediate left and right. It was a means of broaching the topic of personal comfort zones and a “sense of place.”
“The next six weeks are really important for you to make UMKC your academic home with roots that begin to grow deep and wide,” Dr. Carranza said. “We, as faculty, will do all we can to help you find your sense of place here at UMKC as you begin your journey.”
He urged the students to dream of future accomplishments and to believe in their ability to make those dreams real – but also to take the next necessary step.
“You must succeed by achievement. You will be required to study long and hard to make good grades, and the first two semesters are crucial, but you can do it here at UMKC,” he said. “There is an incredible support network for students here on campus but you have to use it.”
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Dr. Gail Hackett shared her “secrets of success” with the new students. She said key components of success in higher education included
- Go to class
- Get to know the faculty
- Don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it
- Get involved on campus
- Get to know other students
- Spend three hours of studying for every hour of class
- Keep your eyes on the prize and savor the journey
She also introduced UMKC’s newest academic unit, University College.
“University College, located in our Student Success Center, is an academic unit for exploratory students – that is, students who are exploring their major and career options. University College is specifically designed to help students decide on a college major. Deciding on a major is one of the most important tasks any of you will face here at the University, and those decisions have absolutely nothing to do with how smart you are. In fact, some of our most brilliant students are indecisive for the simple reason that they have so many options in front of them. Taking the time to actively explore your options will guarantee that you make an informed choice when you declare your academic major.”
Chancellor Leo E. Morton described the unique advantages UMKC students enjoy.
“At UMKC, you will enjoy the amenities of a large university, with a small campus feel. We have a very low faculty to student ratio. That provides the opportunity to interact with faculty in a meaningful way, and have a personal educational experience,” Morton said. “You will also enjoy that small campus feel at the center of vibrant and stimulating urban community. That’s a combination we like to call ‘College Town, City Life.’ Virtually at your doorstep, you have a city that is not just beautiful and filled with entertainment, but is also a learning laboratory. There are thinkers and planners and workers from all walks of life, just waiting to share experiences and advice.”
University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe echoed the theme, saying UMKC “has grown into a gem in our state” since joining the system in 1963, “offering a world-class education right here in Kansas City.”
“If you are here, it is because you have the distinction of being among the very best, and you should be assured that your education will prepare you well for what lies ahead,” Wolfe added. “With your education, you will not simply float along wherever the waves might take you. With the help of our dedicated faculty, you will learn new ways to look at the world, tackle challenges and size up opportunities. You will have the means to chart your own course and chase your passions and improve the world we all share.
“The future is yours to dream, and yours to create.”
Newly-minted college student Montrez Jones of Kansas City said the rush of new experiences had left him “a little numb” but said the convocation ceremony was helpful in sorting it all out.
“I like the way they tried to connect with our generation. From where I sat, it seemed to work,” he said.
Vishwa Patel of Independence described her mood as “nervous but excited” and said convocation “gives you the encouragement you need to do well.”
Another incoming student, Alma Hernandez of Kansas City, expressed similar feelings. “You really don’t know what to expect,” she said. “I really like the tips they gave us on how to have a better college experience. They’re helping us realize that this is not high school anymore. It’s time to grow up.”