The fall semester has officially begun for colleges and universities across the nation. The Region’s own Valparaiso University (VU) started classes this week, and recognized its newest additions to the campus family with the 91st Annual VU Convocation Ceremony.
“It’s a great way to kick off the new academic year and welcome new students, faculty, and staff to the university,” said Kristen Knoerzer, Senior Associate Director of Marketing and Communications for VU.
As tradition dictates, students processed from the Harre Union building to the notorious Chapel of the Resurrection, symbolizing their official arrival as members of the campus community.
“It’s amazing seeing these new students process through the faculty and staff now knowing that they’ll do it again at their commencement in four years,” Knoerzer continued. “Their first year they walk through here all nervous, but then at the end of their journey you can really see how they’ve matured and come into their own; it’s remarkable to see that transformation.”
After processing into the chapel, the ceremony began with a brief prayer and introductory remarks from Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., President of VU, who officially welcomed 175 graduate students and more than 800 freshman and transfers into the VU community, all representing more than 18 states and 12 nations.
“Valpo brings people together from every background, faith, and perspective to engage in dialogue, discover what their future will hold, and allow them to pursue their calling,” Heckler said. “We have students here today who have dreams of becoming engineers, pediatrists, teachers, artists, NASA employees, and even working for the Pokémon company.”
The diversity of this incoming group of Crusaders was evident, as was VU’s commitment to enhancing each of their distinct talents to shape them into the best possible versions of themselves.
“In every generation, the heritage of this university has been sustained and its mission refined principally by those precious women and men who have freely chosen to lay their destinies to the future of Valpo University,” Heckler said. “I urge all of you to dream big and then do something about it; get focused, set goals, take risks, fail, try again, fail, try again, and get closer. Do this, and I promise you not only will you have a more rewarding experience at Valpo, but our campus and community will be richer for your work.”
Heckler encouraged the newcomers to take out their phones and snap a quick selfie, one they can look back on just four short years from now.
“My hope for all of you is that on your graduation day you take a moment to pull of that selfie and recognize how far you’ve come,” Heckler said. “I hope in that moment you know the strength of your character and recognize potential realized. Welcome to Valpo.”
The convocation was a nice surprise for some students, including freshman Allie Taylor.
“This was not expected at all but definitely made us feel welcome,” Taylor said. “It was such a cool surprise, and I’m looking forward to seeing what college life is like in a place so committed to its students’ wellbeing.”
Marissa Riffett shared her fellow classmate’s sentiment, acknowledging the close-knit feel the ceremony gave.
“This was really cool,” Riffett said. “There’s not many schools that actually take the time to make this personal of a connection with their students.”
Post-ceremony, students were invited to attend the Taste of Valpo celebration in the Harre Union Building. The event featured a selection of foods from local campus favorites like Starbucks, Domino’s, Panera, Fluid Coffee Bar, to name a few.
“We’ve included the Taste of Valpo for the last few years,” Knoerzer continued. “It’s a great way to help build that community feeling between campus and the larger Valparaiso area.”
Between the Convocation Ceremony and the Taste of Valpo, every new faculty member, undergraduate, graduate, and transfer student undoubtedly left the festivities feeling like a part of the VU family.
“I initially came here for volleyball and those girls are all extremely nice, but today made me see that culture carries out throughout the entire campus as well,” said new student Nicki Bechtold. “Valpo already feels like a new home.”