Convocation welcomes freshmen

Freshman students don their newly bestowed Rat caps. A long-standing first-year tradition, students write their name, hometown, expected graduation year, major and “RAT” on the inner bill. // Photo by Joey D’Adamio Student Publications

This past Sunday, Aug. 21, the Institute welcomed in its newest class of students at the annual freshman convocation, an event designed to help students learn about some traditions at the Institute, as well as introduce them to some of the administration that will be guiding their education. The event, occurring at 9 a.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium, was the first in recent history to appear at the football stadium, with the event taking place online or in McCamish Pavilion in the past, and featured a multitude of live events for freshmen to enjoy.

 Many freshmen arrived early, and as students were pouring, staffers for the event began playing some games by pulling freshmen from the stands to compete in Ice Breaker style challenges. Games such as Face Cookie, Tissue Box Twerk and Name That Tune helped to keep the mood more casual in the face of some of the big hitting figures on campus making an appearance. 

In between games, event staffers posed trivia questions, rewarding the quickest students to message the answer to the Institute’s Instagram page with merchandise and prizes. Once the games concluded and the official start time of the convocation arrived, the Ramblin’ Reck drove onto the field, leading the faculty processional towards the middle stage as students stood watching on. 

As one might expect, President Ángel Cabrera was the first to speak, welcoming students to the Institute and telling them to make the most of their time here. 

“You’re here now, just take it all in. Take a deep breath. It’s gonna be a fun time, and an incredible part of your life journey,” said Cabrera, reassuring the freshmen of their place at the Institute and dismissing any concerns they may have had about not belonging. 

After guiding the students through the procession of events for the day, Cabrera then proceeded to ask the freshman to put on their Rat Caps, with a sea of gold following in the stands. 

“I know some of you are a little bit shy about it, but go ahead and put on your Rat caps and love it. Those Rat caps will never look this clean and shiny again,” said Cabrera. 

After Cabrera gave his introduction, he allowed the stage to be taken by three people at the Institute. 

The first was Natasha Valluri, second-year CM. Valluri was chosen as the second-year speaker for the event. She spoke to some of the things freshmen may encounter and how to navigate being a first-year at the Institute. 

“It’s exciting and a little daunting to see so many new faces, both for you and for me,” said Valluri. 

“Some of you are nervous. Some of you are pretty excited. Some of you do not know how to talk to the person sitting next to you. And some of you probably can’t hear me very clearly right now. Welcome to the first year experience, this is it!”

Valluri gave some advice about taking care of oneself, getting out there to meet new people and generally making sure that one’s college experience is as memorable as it is academically rewarding. 

To round out the speech, she called on the freshmen to not treat their first year as a checklist. 

“People will tell you that you shouldn’t have regrets: you will have regrets. I would say, don’t let the fear of having regret stop you from trying. Don’t let the fear stop you from talking to new people, or trying new things, because this is college. It’s people and opportunities and a new character arc for your story.” 

After Valluri, Steve Mclaughlin, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, spoke to the first-years about his role as provost, and how they could become a part of the Institute’s rich history. 

“You might not know exactly what the provost is, [but] I’m kind of like the principal, and am also responsible for all things academic here at Georgia Tech,” McLaughlin said. 

While he touched on some of the important duties he was in charge of keeping up with, he made it clear that, at the end of the day, “our students, you, are our top priority.” 

Finally, Rohan Sohani, fifth-year AE and President of the Undergraduate Student Government Association, imparted some words or wisdom to the incoming class of students. 

“As you begin to navigate Georgia Tech over the next couple years, have a plan for what you want to do and accomplish over your academic career. Have a goal for you want to do each year, and break that goal up into mini goals to help track your progress over time. A mountain is a heck of a lot easier to climb with many checkpoints along the way,” said Sohani. 

As he concluded his speech, Sohani called on all students present to hold up their hand and recite Georgia Tech’s honor code, and concluded by challenging students to make a commitment to improving the human condition, “Not only can we do that, we will do that.”

The event was rounded out by President Cabrera giving his top 10 recommendations for the incoming class, including such tid bits as making sure to spend time outside, taking care of you and your friends, and calling your parents at least once a week. 

In his own words, “Some of you may be [wondering] if you are up to the task. Yes you are. We want you here. We know you will succeed at Georgia Tech.”