Welcome to the banks
Convocation ceremony honors 250th anniversary class, new president
The University’s 250th anniversary class arrived to campus on Saturday with a welcome ceremony that included a string of performances at High Point Solutions Stadium. The event drew in a crowd of about 6,000 first-years.
But members of the incoming class were not the only ones being welcomed, as the Convocation also marked a new beginning for University President Robert L. Barchi, who gave a speech to the crowd.
“Commencement 2016 will include an extra measure of pride in our shared Rutgers history, in our colonial roots and in you,” Barchi said. “Trust me, you will hear a lot about ‘Rutgers 250’ over the next four years.”
Deborah Epting, associate vice president for University Enrollment Management, said her office was more selective in admitting members of this class.
“You are members of the most academically challenging and diverse class to ever enter this University,” Epting said.
The incoming class is 300 points above the national average in SAT scores, with more than 1,700 students graduating in the top 10 percent of their graduating class, Epting said.
Lisa Ko, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said her parents’ worries were eased when they discovered the University’s rising reputation for academic quality.
“After hearing stories about alumni getting good jobs and things turning out, [my parents] feel more secure about me going here and learning in this community,” Ko said.
Barchi told the Convocation audience about the University’s historic expansion in the health sciences and the construction of a new home for Rutgers Business School on Livingston campus.
“[We are] making a huge number of new opportunities available to you,” he said. “With so many choices, there are no limits except your own imagination and drive.”
Zain Haq, assistant director for Student Fundraising, said the new president is the perfect choice for a transformative time at the University.
“They brought in someone who has experiences that will compliment the sorts of changes that we need to make while still preserving all of the traditions and strengths that we have as a university,” he said.
Though the University is experiencing many changes, John Connelly, president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, said in his convocation speech it would always feel like home.
“Rutgers is my domain,” Connelly told the Class of 2016. “It’s my sanctuary. It’s the place I know I can always turn for camaraderie and support — and it’s crucial that it becomes a place like that for you as well.”
Barchi said students should remember their rich heritage and take pride in its history.
“Today, all of you join a community of scholars that extends back two and a half centuries,” he said.
Performances at Convocation included Cabaret Theatre’s rendition of “I Need a Hero,” and cheerleaders dancing to the University’s fight song. Incoming students took their first photographs as members of the Class of 2016, and a barbecue and a carnival followed the event.
The Convocation was not only a time for celebration, but for free publicity as well, as representatives of various student organizations took advantage of the big event by handing out fliers and setting up booths.
Dance Marathon volunteers distributed “250th Class of Rutgers” T-shirts at the entrance, attracting a large crowd to their tables.
Haq, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the event is a perfect place to raise money, as it is designed to engage the incoming class with the University and its energy.
“It’s just a way to introduce students to all the stuff that’s going on at Rutgers,” he said. “It’s to take some pressure off, help students meet each other and help [them] get to know Rutgers.”
Elyse Convery, president the Rutgers Queen’s Chorale, said she expects a rise in membership after the Convocation.
“Since we’re a female choir, we can only take the female half,” said Convery, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior. “But between this and the Involvement Fair, it’s our biggest recruitment opportunity.”
Connelly, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the school spirit exhibited at Convocation reflects a part of University culture that will never die.
“When you take part in our cultures, you’re taking a part of something older than this country,” he said. “You will find that you’re inheritors of a noble legacy.”
Sharon Aguirre, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said the Convocation gave her a strong sense of what the University is all about.
“I just fell in love with everything,” Aguirre said. “I love the school spirit and the diversity.”