AU administration, SG welcome freshmen at opening convocation


Freshman students were welcomed to AU with pomp and circumstance Aug. 26, as they processed into Bender Arena for the Convocation ceremony accompanied by bagpipes, the AU pep band and school deans in their academic robes.

As the 1,550 students took their seats in Bender Arena, the administration and student leaders invited them into the AU community.

“We consider Convocation the beginning of a new academic year and the beginning of academic careers at American University for each of you … just such a milestone,” AU President Neil Kerwin said.

The Class of 2015 is expected to leave the University and become leaders in their fields, Kerwin said.

“When it’s our turn to replace our leaders on the Hill and our titans of industry, let’s pledge ourselves to replace them not with the pettiness that we see on the news but the idealism and the sense of community that we find today and that this University has fostered for 120 years,” Student Government President Tim McBride said.

With the world in turmoil, some of the greatest challenges faced in generations will have to be met with the skills and confidence of AU students, AU officials said.

The Class of 2015 will need to be able to analyze and solve problems, understand the complexity of the global society and tackle the tough ethical questions of life, Provost Scott Bass said.

“These are all outcomes [of education] so desperately needed in today’s ever-so contentious and divisive society around us,” he said.

Though the speakers talked about all the University has to offer, Faculty-Scholar Robert Durant said not all the solutions will be discovered here on campus.

“Here’s the dirty little secret: We’re not going to give you answers to those questions,” Durant said. “You’re, over the course of your lifetime, going to address those issues and you’re the ones to provide the answers.”

More than 18,000 students applied to AU this year, but only 1,550 have a “coveted seat” at convocation, Bass said.

“We hold this convocation so that you will pause for a moment and consider the obligation to yourself and to those who got you here,” Kerwin said.

Students will be expected to take full advantage of their opportunities here, Durant said.

Students may not be accustomed to new aspects of life and will encounter new viewpoints that they will learn here. But exposure to new experiences at AU will transform the way they think, Durant said.

“More than tolerance is needed here,” he said. “You need to embrace the difference, embrace what’s new.”

It will all be worth it in the end, said Vice President of the Alumni Association Chip Griffin. The connections that students form here are mean to last a lifetime, Griffin said.

“You may not find your own life partner or business partner here at AU, but you can very well meet your best friend, your future boss, the editor of your novel, your first client, or your campaign manager,” Griffin said.

He said that, with convocation, students began a journey that does not last merely four years, but a lifetime.

“Once an Eagle, always an Eagle,” Griffin said.

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