31st Annual Freshman Convocation

A University of Washington welcome for freshmen, their friends and families.

Seize your “important moments,” President Young tells entering class.

In his address to the incoming class at Freshman Convocation on Sunday, President Michael K. Young told the newest members of the Husky family to seize the important moments that will present themselves during their undergraduate years.

Freshman ConvocationBefore a packed house of students and family members in the Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, President Young spoke of his own experience as an undergraduate “devoutly hoping to avoid the attention of the professor.” And yet, in one of those important moments, his professor selected him to be a research assistant on a large-scale research project. “I accepted with alacrity and it changed my life,” he said. “This is a university of limitless opportunities—and generous professors.  Seek out those opportunities, make your own moments, and especially, be willing to accept help from others.”

A second important moment came in his first year of law school, where he was challenged not to just learn the law, but to think and analyze for himself. “Every time I read a line or reflected on an argument, I questioned its relevance, its coherence, its correctness.  What was the purpose and result of every decision?  What impact might that decision have on other areas of law or on human behavior?” As a law student, he “answered every question and then I questioned every answer.”  President YoungPresident Young urged the members of the incoming class to do the same. “The process of asking questions and questioning the answers is the very purpose of this great university and it is your purpose while you are here,” he said. “You will seize opportunities. You will be boundless.You will question the answer.You will change this world for good.”

Professor of English Shawn Wong opened the proceedings with a talk about University tradition and the purpose of ceremonial occasions.  Universities, he said, “are custodians both of enduring traditions of learning and of the power they bestow on those who come to learn.” He told the students that by joining the University of Washington they become part of traditions that extend back to the Middle Ages.  Ceremonies, he explained, unite us with “what has brought us here so we can get a good fix on where we are going.”

Vice President for Student Life Dr. Denzil Suite and ASUW President Christina Xiao both gave the incoming class their views on student life and how to make their undergraduate years a success.  Dr. Suite encouraged the students to get involved in a variety of student organizations.  “Your UW experience,” he said, “will be incomplete if all you do is go to class and go home and study all night.” Ms. Xiao described how overwhelmed she felt when she first came to campus.  “Throughout my first year I struggled to find my place. I was confronted with unknown after unknown as my academic, social, and extra curricular life constantly turned upside down.”  However, she reminded them that this was an experience they shared with their classmates. “It’s the people around you … that will carry you through the unforeseen challenges and will transform you into someone greater than you ever imagined you could be.”

In a talk that was at times moving and at times quite playful, Dr. Ed Taylor, Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, introduced the incoming class. He brought tears to the eyes of many parents when he quoted from the Robert Munsch book, I’ll Love You Forever - “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, My baby you’ll be” – while his description of the new students who “waddled across the Oregon border” (illustrated by slides showing an Oregon duck crossing into Washington and turning into a Husky) was met with instant and approving laughter from the crowd.

Provost Ana Marie Cauce introduced the faculty and highlighted three faculty members who involve undergraduates in their work or help undergrads pursue their own research. Professor of mechanical engineering, Nathan Sniadecki, professor of physics Leslie Rosenberg, and associate professor Maria Elena Garcia, director of the Comparative History of Ideas program, were all praised for their work with undergraduates and asked to stand and be recognized. Thomas Larson, a 2013 graduate who worked in Dr. Sniadecki’s lab and has developed an attachment to smart phones that can magnify by 150 times, was also recognized for his achievements and entrepreneurial spirit.  Provost Cauce told the students they would have opportunities to engage in exciting work, even as undergraduates.  “The world of tomorrow is being created right here at the University of Washington, and you will be an important part of that creative process – perhaps much sooner than you think.”

Inside the tent

Inside the President’s Picnic tent.

The President’s Picnic followed the convocation on the Rainier Vista Lawn and the fall weather was spectacular – blue skies and 80 degrees.  New students and their families were able to chat informally with the President and members of the faculty and administration as they enjoyed the music (the Husky Band and a jazz trio led by former student and pianist Cameron Sharif) and delicious food from Laurel Bay Catering. Some were lucky enough to win a copy of the book, The Fountain and the Mountain, which chronicles the 100-year history of our campus.

The President and his wife, Marti, graciously and tirelessly welcomed all of our new students, signed their programs and books, and posed for photographs, which will be sent to the new students and their families at no charge.

All in all, it was a memorable and exciting beginning to a promising new year.

Event Webcast

UWTV logoThe Freshman Convocation video can be viewed at UWTV. The ceremony will also be broadcast on UWTV on the following dates:

  • Friday, September 27, 6:00 p.m
  • Saturday, September 28,  8:00 a.m.
  • Sunday, September 29, 1:00 p.m.
  • Monday, September 30, 2:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 1, 8:00 p.m.

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