New Student Convocation

33rd Annual Freshman Convocation

Held Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016

University Community Welcomes the Class of 2020


Surprisingly, no one said they were visionary, far seeing, or possessed of keen insight. Not a single speaker commented on how remarkably focused they were on their educational pursuits. Nevertheless, the members of the class of 2020 clearly enjoyed themselves Sunday, as their collegiate careers got off to a great start at the 33rd Annual Freshman Convocation in the Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

President Ana Mari Cauce, the regents, deans, faculty, and University leaders were all there to welcome the newest members of the Husky community, as well as their families and friends, to campus.

Following the colorful pomp and circumstance of the academic procession, University Marshal Joe Janes began the ceremony by talking about the history and traditions of the University of Washington, as well as the centuries-old tradition of higher education.

President Cauce followed, stressing a basic UW tenet: “We is greater than me.” “The power you possess as an individual,” she said, “still pales in comparison to the power you possess together.” She asked them to introduce themselves to their neighbors, take a selfie with them, and post it using #newhuskies2016. Finally, she encouraged them to “dare great things” and be open to new experiences.

Vice President for Student Life Denzil Suite touched on a similar idea, urging the freshmen to get involved in clubs and organizations. He reviewed the many support services Student Life has to offer and closed with a quote from the great educator Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, who said, “…the tragedy in life does NOT lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.

ASUW President Daniele Meñez told her own story, how she arrived at the UW, terrified, lonely, and scared after leaving her “tiny island home in the middle of the Pacific ocean” (Ms. Meñez is from Guam). She didn’t know what she wanted to do or how to fit in, and while everyone around her seemed to know exactly what they were doing, she eventually discovered they didn’t. She shared several truths that she had learned over the course of her Husky experience:

  • Remind yourself: It’s going to be OK
  • It takes time and effort to discover the life you want to lead.
  • There is no single road map for success.
  • Take risks.
  • Remember those who do not have the opportunities you have been given.
  • Everyone in the university community is rooting for you to succeed.

Parents and students both laughed and (let’s be honest) cried just a bit as Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs Ed Taylor reminded them how quickly the time from crib to college had passed. Dean Taylor described the diversity of the incoming class and reviewed the many different countries and schools from which they came. He closed by having the parents and loved ones stand and recite with him the words of a grandmother:

I wish you strength when you are sick
I wish you hope in the face of despair
I wish you warmth when it is cold
I wish you peace when you feel conflicted
Courage dear in the face of fear
And I wish you love, abiding love.

Provost Jerry Baldasty gave the freshmen a glimpse into some of the exciting opportunities for research and scholarship that were waiting for them in the very near future and introduced the featured Convocation speaker, senior lecturer and Curator for Oceanic and Asian Culture at the Burke Museum, Holly Barker.

Dr. Barker told of her harrowing first day in the Peace Corps, when she was dropped off, after a 17-hour trip across the open ocean, on a deserted beach, on a remote island in the Marshall Islands. Her Peace Corps experience taught her several lessons that applied to the UW “island” on which the incoming class has landed.

She asked the new students to be “open to and respectful of new ways of knowing. People around you understand the world in diverse and exciting ways.” She advised them to find or create communities at the UW that function as family and used as an example a ceremony found in the Pacific Islander communities of the Samoan, Tongan, Hawaiian and Pohnpeian people called the kava ceremony.

Finally, she suggested they connect their education to the broader world through service learning and be an advocate for their learning needs by working with their teachers to develop new learning opportunities.

Freshman Convocation was a fun, thoughtful and inspiring way to begin the new school year and one that undoubtedly left the Class of 2020 and their family members feeling genuinely welcomed to the University and very proud to be Huskies!



Why do we have commencement and convocation ceremonies? Learn more about ceremony and tradition at the University of Washington.

Office of Ceremonies


Symbols and meanings

There are four key ritual elements that are seen at University of Washington academic ceremonies. They express our history and traditions.



The Four Columns

The columns that form the backdrop for our stage at convocation and commencement hold special meaning for the University of Washington.



The University Mace

University of Washington ceremonial occasions begin with the entrance of the University Mace, carried by the University Marshal.