The annual event is where students receive a baseball cap with the understanding that they will exchange it in four years for a mortar board.
Each year at Convocation ─ part of Welcome Week ─ the Student Government Association, president and provost give incoming students a pep talk, charge them to do their best and urge them to take advantages of everything UofL has to offer.
SGA President Kurtis Frizzell opened this year’s event and asked if students felt a kind of déjà vu to their first day of high school. He assured them that besides the butterflies one feels at the start of a new opportunity, there are no similarities.
You’ll be stressed out, get no sleep, change majors – you won’t be coddled, he told them.
“But you’ll have the time of your life,” he said. “This is our last chance to focus on bettering ourselves – and only ourselves.
“We the educated few” – the 1 percent of the world with college degrees – will be expected to cure cancer, build bridges and do great things, he said. “All the resources are here. Seek them.”
Frizzell closed by passing along a piece of advice he received when he entered UofL: “Be doing one of two things at all times: bettering yourself or having fun.”
President James Ramsey spoke briefly to welcome the students and to introduce the convocation’s main speaker: Willihnganz.
“We’re honored that you’ve chosen to be at the University of Louisville,” Ramsey told them.
He noted that, as chief academic officer, Provost Willihnganz is responsible for many of the great things that happen at UofL. Beyond that, he said, “she is the person who has to approve in four years your graduation – so be nice to her.”
Willihnganz tied her message to two themes in this year’s Book in Common – “The Other Wes Moore: One Name Two Fates,” which incoming freshmen were to have read before arriving for the semester.
The book, she said, is about two men with the same name who come from similar backgrounds. One becomes a Rhodes Scholar, decorated military veteran, White House fellow, business leader and author. The other is convicted for murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Choices and expectations, she said, took them in different directions.
“This class is our choice. We have chosen you and I could not be happier with the choices we’ve made,” she said as she welcomed the students. “You’re the brightest freshman class we’ve ever admitted with an average ACT of 24.6; with 30 percent of you with an ACT of 27 or above; with 68 class valedictorians; and with a diversity of color, race, religion and interests that make this university the envy of the state.”
Willihnganz described the myriad choices that fill the average American’s day. She talked about Western society’s idea that the more choices people have, the more freedom they have. She said there also is a theory that too many choices can paralyze someone or put a great deal of stress on people when they wonder whether they made the right choice.
“You’ve made a choice, too – and it was a good one,” she assured the students. “Don’t second guess yourselves. You wouldn’t have been happier at UK.
“There are extraordinary opportunities here at UofL for you, and we want to push you out of your comfort zone,” she added. “Have high expectations for yourself, and take advantage of all of it. But don’t get paralyzed by the options. Don’t expect it all to be perfect, and don’t be too hard on yourself, because you actually are not solely responsible for everything. Just make a choice – and be responsible for that.
“Choose why you are here, what kind of person you want to be, what you want to do in this world. And after that, it doesn’t matter so much.”
Willihnganz also urged the students to find their passion for making the world a better place and to choose the things that will allow them to live it.
“We’re all here to help. Call on us. Get to know us. You’ve made a good choice, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll choose next.”