Inaugural New Student Convocation welcomes next class of Tritons, commemorates induction into UMSL community
Friday afternoon, eager first-year University of Missouri–St. Louis students, many clad in Triton red with family in tow, streamed into the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center for the inaugural New Student Convocation.
They were greeted with “Welcome Tritons” banners, and inside, helpful UMSL staff members guided them to the lower level of the building. Before the start of the ceremony, new students posed for group pictures and selfies in front of an UMSL photo backdrop, while others chatted and enjoyed free treats provided by the university. As 4 p.m. approached, the new students, their families and UMSL faculty and staff made their way into the Anheuser-Busch Performance Hall.
The crowd buzzed as it settled in for the newly minted tradition.
The New Student Convocation was designed to formally welcome the newest class of students and their families to the UMSL campus. During the roughly 40-minute ceremonial event, new students heard from speakers including Vice Chancellor for Strategic Enrollment and Career Advancement Reggie Hill, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Steven J. Berberich, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jessica Long-Pease, alumnae and Marketing Manager at 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis Mona Sabau and President of the Pierre Laclede Honors College Student Association Alex Entwistle.
New students also received a lapel pin and recited the Triton Creed to commemorate their induction into the UMSL community. Following the ceremony, they posed for a class photo and then made their way to the Millennium Student Center for a Welcome Bash hosted by the Office of Student Involvement.
Hill began the proceedings by welcoming the university’s newest Tritons. He noted that the ceremony marked the beginning of their UMSL journey and also the matriculation of one of the largest classes in UMSL history – more than 1,045 students from the St. Louis region and Missouri, more than 80 students from 22 states throughout the country, and more than 125 international students from 15 countries.
Before moving on to his fellow speakers, Hill shared a bit of advice.
“Embrace the power of adaptability,” he said. “In this ever-evolving world, adaptability is a skill that will carry you far. College life will present you with new ideas, diverse perspectives and unexpected opportunities. Embrace them with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Be open to change and unafraid to step out of your comfort zone. For it’s often in those moments of discomfort that the most growth occurs.
“So, explore your passions. College is not just about coursework; it’s a chance to discover what truly makes you curious. Take advantage of the diverse range of classes and activities that UMSL offers. Engage with your professors; join clubs; engage with your fellow students at events; and seek out your mentors, who can help uncover your interests and talents.”
Berberich reiterated Hill’s message ahead of spotlighting the deans of each college and school at UMSL.
“As you embark on this new chapter of your lives, I urge you to approach your time here with an open mind and a hunger for knowledge,” he said. “You are about to embark on an adventure that will challenge you, shape you and leave an indelible mark on your future. Embrace this opportunity to learn from some of the finest minds in their fields, and from your fellow classmates, who bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the table.”
Next, Long-Pease offered a brief history of the university, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. She touched on UMSL’s humble beginnings – 673 students taking courses in one building in 1963 – and how far it has come, noting UMSL now boasts more than 112,000 alumni throughout the nation.
Sabau counts herself among UMSL’s impressive alumni and has been active in supporting the alumni community as a committee member of the College of Business Alumni Chapter and member of the UMSL Alumni Executive Board.
She recounted her journey as an international transfer student from the Gulf University for Science and Technology in West Mishref, Kuwait, and the difference it made in her life as she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and an MBA in marketing at UMSL.
During her time at UMSL, Sabau also worked as a graduate assistant in the College of Business Administration’s Undergraduate Advising Office, University Marketing and Communications and the Office of Research Administration. Her experiences as a student and graduate assistant were immensely valuable and directly led to her success after graduating.
“UMSL’s impact on my life transcends words, exceeding even the wildest aspirations of my younger self,” she said. “Guided by luminaries such as Liane Constantine, Dr. Perry Drake, Professor Elizabeth Eikmann, Professor Marcia Countryman, Professor Gerald Gao and many others, I unlocked doors to opportunities that once seemed beyond my reach.”
After sharing her story, Sabau turned the stage over to two current students: Alexander Orywall, president of the Student Government Association, and Entwistle, president of the Pierre Laclede Honors College Student Association and the 2023 recipient of the Remington R. Williams Award.
Entwistle offered words of encouragement to the new students while narrating his own UMSL story. His path included many ups and downs, such as a serious illness in his third year that ultimately led to a five-day stay in the ICU and an aggravated injury resulting in chronic pain.
However, those struggles belied some of Entwistle’s proudest achievements as a Triton: leading one of the most successful events in his tenure as president of the Honors College student association, posting one of his highest GPAs to date, mentoring a class of driven honors students and winning the Remington R. Williams Award.
The journey wasn’t necessarily easy, but it was worth it.
“The moral of the story: Tough times make tough people,” Entwistle said. “Tough times don’t break tough people and often your greatest opportunities hide behind the heaviest door.”
The event concluded with Hill calling for the new students to embrace UMSL’s four core values: engagement, success, innovation and integrity. Those values, he said, are essential to creating a welcoming, supportive university community.
Before leaving for the class photo and Welcome Bash, Hill led the crowd in a recitation of the Triton Creed – the last words echoing throughout the theater.
“Today and always, I embrace the colors of red and gold, embodying the spirit of a lifelong UMSL Triton.”
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