While Commencement marks the end of a student’s college career, Convocation commemorates a student’s entry into the arena of higher education. Convocation acts as the first official collegiate event for Tech freshmen, and is usually held the Sunday before class starts. This year, over 3,000 students, parents and family members were present at the event.
Convocation in its current format was established in 1994 as a program within the Office of Success Programs, where it continues to be housed in the present day. Success Programs also runs FASET, GT1000, 1-to-1 Tutoring, Sophomore Programs, and other academic support programs. Bethany Naser, the Assistant Director of Success Programs and Director of FASET, currently is in charge of overseeing the planning process for Convocation.
“There are four purposes for [Convocation]: to inspire students, to welcome them to Georgia Tech’s academic community, to acquaint students with Tech’s mission and traditions and to serve as a rite of passage for freshmen,” said Steven Girardot, the Director of Success Programs.
At Convocation, all freshmen receive a RAT Cap, which has been a Tech tradition for nearly a century. Freshmen also receive a T-Book, which is a book the chronicles most of Tech’s traditions over the years.
“Taking part in the RAT Cap tradition and singing the fight song with 2500 classmates was the highlight of Convocation and will remain a highlight of my freshman year experience,” said Scott Rowland, a first-year Industrial Engineering major.
Another unique aspect of Convocation is the sophomore welcome, in which an outstanding sophomore student is selected to deliver an address to the incoming freshmen. Jeremy Feaster, a second-year Chemical Engineering major originally from North Carolina, was selected to deliver this year’s address.
“The topic of my speech was being successful as a ‘FROSH,’ where FROSH stood for the five things that helped me to be successful in my first year at Tech. I chose the topic as I thought about what I would want to hear if I was a freshman asking for advice from a sophomore,” Feaster said.
Speakers for the sophomore welcome are selected on a nomination basis. Nominees are then given a chance to submit an abstract on what their speech would be about. The speaker is then selected by Success Programs.
“My main source of inspiration was the fact that I would be able to share some of the helpful tips and useful knowledge that I had gained throughout my first year with the incoming freshman class. This would help them to enter the semester on a positive note and motivate them to succeed in not only their first year at Tech, but in their following years, their careers, and ultimately, their lives,” Feaster said.
The Honor Advisory Council also delivers an address at Convocation. This year’s address was delivered by Sam Vojdani, a fourth-year Biology major and Chair of the Honor Advisory Council.
“I hope that the freshmen took my speech to heart, meaning that I hope they realize the importance of maintaining ideals such as honor and integrity on Georgia Tech’s campus,” Vojdani said.
“I was impressed with the diligence of the honor code and the fact that the honor code allows for collaboration yet still protecting academic integrity,” said Xenia Strosnider, a first-year Civil Engineering major.
President Peterson also made an address at this year’s Convocation. This year marked Peterson’s first Convocation at Tech.
“We were honored and excited that President Peterson has continued that tradition and participated in his first Freshman Convocation this year, where he gave a very inspiring address. We were also excited that Mrs. Peterson attended the ceremony as well, and both President and Mrs. Peterson received their official RAT Caps right along with the freshmen,” Girardot said.
For all the freshmen, Convocation was their first official encounter with President Peterson.
“It was really neat to see President Peterson because I was sitting on the front row. I was sitting right there. He was not just a figure, but a real person who really cares about Tech,” said Courtney Huggins, a first-year Biomedical Engineering major.
“During his speech, I looked out into the sea of freshmen and saw so many young, eager faces listening intently to every word President Peterson said. To me this is the indication of a remarkable class, where the incoming freshmen were not only excited to join the Tech community, but were willing to listen to invaluable words of wisdom from the Institute’s president,” Feaster said.
Aside from Peterson, another President also took the stage at the event—Alina Staskevicius, Undergraduate Student Body President. Alina delivered a speech about “firsts,” referring to firsts for each freshman and firsts for Tech.
“The energy at Convocation was very impressive. The freshmen class showed their excitement by sporting their RAT Caps, singing our fight song and chanting the good word. I very much enjoyed being a part of the ceremony,” Staskevicius said.
Another interesting touch was a presentation delivered by the Alumni Association President Joe Irwin. The Alumni Association also presented a video chronicling what Tech alumni have accomplished with their degrees. The video was produced by the Alumni Association’s Living History Director, Marilyn Somers.
Although this year’s Convocation ceremony has just passed, the planning for next year’s event has already begun.
“We begin planning for the next Convocation literally the day after the event is held. It takes a full year to plan this event because it requires coordination with many campus stakeholders, including the Freshman Experience, Greek Life, Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, the Alumni Association and Auxiliary Services, just to name a few,” Girardot said.
Even though planning Convocation is a considerable amount of work for the Office of Success Programs, the planners of the event expressed the value of their efforts.
“I love seeing all the freshmen in their RAT Caps, and I, of course, love hearing the remarkable speeches—those by our students…as well as the keynote remarks by our President. I always leave Convocation inspired and impressed,” Girardot said.