The sound of African drums echoed around Harris-Stowe State University. The Class of 2023 marched in two lines, with bright, smiling faces, across the HSSU campus as they officially began their academic journey. Athletics, administrators and faculty, clad in their regalia, welcomed the procession of students as they entered the auditorium in the HGA building for the Rite of Passage Convocation Ceremony.
The Convocation program consisted of several speakers encouraging students to soak up everything the HSSU campus has to offer during their college journey.
LaTonia Collins Smith, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, welcomed parents, guests and the honorees, the Class of 2023, officially to Harris-Stowe State University.
“The transition you all have made from high school to college is remarkable,” Collins Smith said. “Convocation is a formal accounting of the accomplishments and achievements of the university community.”
HSSU Board of Regents Chairman Ronald Norwood spoke to the freshmen class about how they have a clean slate to pursue their career aspirations over the course of their college years.
“The Webster dictionary definition of ‘convocation’ is the assembly of people called together to a meeting and we are here for a special purpose,” said Norwood, an attorney. “You are here to create and be the future. When I look out and see the Class of 2023, I see the future. What matters is what you do right here and right now.”
One of the themes from the speeches presented by HSSU faculty, staff and guest speakers revolved around the idea of overcoming the obstacles students will face while in college.
“There are going to be difficult times, but you are in the position to have control over what happens right now, which will be a major contributing factor to where you go in your life,” Norwood said. “College is not easy; it is hard work. There is no substitute for hard work. You have to work smart too. Take advantage of the resources you have at your disposal.”
Anheuser-Busch School of Business Adjunct Professor Stacy Moore encouraged students to explore their interests and not give up on their dreams on their academic journey.
“My advice to you is to not let the sky be the limit; let it be the beginning,” Moore said. “Your education is the main priority. Keep your dreams alive and embrace the passion in your heart. Thank you for choosing HSSU and I cannot wait to see you walk across that stage.”
Dwayne Smith, interim president, provided facts about what makes the Class of 2023 so special, including how this class as a collective came to HSSU from 195 high schools located in 16 states and 7 countries.
The top high schools where first-year students graduated from are Hazelwood Central, East St. Louis Senior High School, Jennings Senior High School and Simeon Career Academy, located in Chicago. Forty-seven percent of the Class of 2023 came to HSSU with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
“The Convocation ceremony was good, said Neya Ford, a freshman studying psychology. “It gave us information on how to graduate and be successful at HSSU. We were also given history behind the university, which I found impactful.”
Ford said she looks forward to making excellent grades and good friends this academic year.
Shawn Baker, vice president and dean of Student Success, formally installed the student government president and vice president in their roles.
“It is an honor to stand before you guys where I sat two years ago at my freshman Convocation,” SGA President TraVonne Walker said. “At HSSU, our motto is to inspire change. I encourage the Class of 2023 to become the change you want to see on campus through action. Today you should tell yourselves: I will be academically responsible and walk in my purpose.”
Fifteenth Miss Harris-Stowe State University Malikah Johnson said she enjoyed her first Convocation experience. “I thought it was beautiful. I loved how the speakers and ceremony showed first-year students they are capable of accomplishing amazing things at HSSU,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s advice to students is to focus on good time management, plan proactively and take time for self-care since college can be a stressful time in a person’s life.