Class of 2018 Inaugurates New Tradition

Drew Vandemore '15 (CANR), left, and Jasmine Kirkland '16 (CANR) paint 'Welcome to UConn' on the rock near the UConn Foundation Building on Aug. 20, 2014. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Drew Vandemore ’15 (CAHNR), left, and Jasmine Kirkland ’16 (CAHNR) put the finishing touches to a message welcoming the incoming class and returning students to the Storrs campus. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

More than 3,500 members of the incoming freshman class will gather on the Student Union mall at sunset Friday for a redesigned Convocation that will launch a new tradition in the University’s 133-year history.

Members of the Class of 2018 will pass through decorated arches honoring UConn’s rich history as a land grant university, as they enter the campus’ main quadrangle framed by dozens of glowing luminarias. Each student will be given a votive candle at the start of the students-only program that is intended to draw the newest members of Husky Nation into a cohesive group. The event begins at 7:45 p.m.

As the sun sets over Gampel Pavilion’s iconic silver dome and the Student Union’s brick façade, students will be welcomed to UConn by speakers gathered in the center of the mall on a stage set up as a “theater-in-the-round.” Scheduled speakers include President Susan Herbst, Provost Mun Choi, Dean of Students Eleanor JB Daugherty, and Mark Sargent, president of the Undergraduate Student Government.

Sargent will light a six-foot torch signifying the start of the new academic year and the students’ journey through UConn. The ceremony will conclude by 8:15 p.m., at which time students will adjourn to enjoy a dessert and ice cream social along Hillside Road.

“We made a decision to change the format of Convocation this year so that it is more student-oriented and would bring the class together to create a clear class identity,” says Michael Gilbert, UConn’s vice president for student affairs. “The ceremony encourages students to take a moment to reflect on the significance of the beginning of their academic journey here.”

In recent years, Convocation has been a more formal affair held inside Gampel Pavilion. The ceremony would take place earlier in the day, and parents, faculty, and staff were invited to join students for the event, which included inspiring speeches by University leaders in formal academic attire. The UConn Marching Band would fire up the crowd, and a community barbecue followed on Fairfield Way.

“The decision to change the format for Convocation was made with direct input from students, who expressed a desire to have an event that would unify members of the incoming class,” Gilbert says. A committee made up of student representatives, University faculty and staff members, and event coordinators designed the new format.

The fall Convocation caps off a hectic day for freshmen, who will start moving into their residence halls at 7 a.m. Friday. The UConn Co-op opens for textbook purchases at 8 a.m. Parents can take part in informal social hours with President Herbst and other campus leaders in the Student Union Ballroom at noon and again at 3:30 p.m.

At 4 p.m., students will say goodbye to their parents and gather in their residence halls for a communal dinner and a quick community meeting, before heading to the Student Union mall at 7:15 p.m.

Hillside Road will be closed, from the handicapped parking spaces in front of the Student Union to the intersection of Hillside Road and Jim Calhoun Way (the intersection near Gampel Pavilion, the School of Business and the UConn Co-op), from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday to accommodate the ceremony.

UConn’s Convocation tradition dates back to Oct. 7, 1881, when the school’s 13 enrolled students joined academic and community leaders for a formal opening of the Storrs Agricultural School in a ceremony in the Storrs Congregational Church.

Members of the Class of 2018 are encouraged to share their thoughts and photos from Convocation and throughout the school year on Twitter and other social media using the hashtag #UConn18. You can also use #HuskyWOW from Aug. 22 to Aug. 25 as you celebrate our Week of Welcome.