Welcome to the Laker family

GVL / Hannah Mico

GVL / Hannah Mico

Kayla Foster

By Kayla Foster

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Every year, Grand Valley State University starts its school year by inviting first-year students to attend a convocation ceremony.

Convocation is a long-standing tradition not just at GVSU but also around the world. Its origin can be traced back as far as the 14
th century.

“For students that attend both convocation and commencement, it’s like bookends for their time at GVSU,” said LeaAnn Tibbe, assistant director in the office of student life.

Convocation is a part of Transitions, a program designed to introduce new students to GVSU. It is tradition that all first-year students, Transitions staff and residential and multicultural assistants attend as one community to set the tone for academic excellence at GVSU.

Transitions leaders are undergraduate volunteers that facilitate sessions for new students about the mission, vision and values of the university.

Convocation is an academic ceremony that brings together the faculty, staff and administration in their academic regalia and is the official start of a college student’s career.

Academic regalia consists of gown, cap and hood, which indicate the degree held by the wearer and the college and university that awarded that degree.

The last to enter the building and the first to leave is a distinguished member of the faculty carrying the mace. This year, Felix Ngassa, representative of the university academic services will be the mace-bearer.

“The mace is the formal beginning and end of the ceremony,” Tibbe said. “After (the mace) is put in place, all the pieces are there.”

GVSU first used the mace in the 1983 commencement ceremony and it is still used today.

Students who attend can expect to hear music from the GVSU Brass Quintet and the University Arts Chorale. First-year students will also be shown a new Laker for a Lifetime video.

“The video will show first-year students what it means to be a Laker,” Tibbe said.

Those attending will hear from President Thomas J. Haas as he welcomes first-year students to the university.

Remarks from the chair of the University Academic Senate Karen Gipson, student body president Andrew Plague and recent GVSU alumnus Matthew LaVere will also take place during convocation.

“Convocation gets people ready to start college academically and socially,” LaVere said.

Convocation is an important transitioning period from high school to college for incoming freshmen.

“Convocation puts everyone on the same playing field,” LaVere said. “It shows new students this is a nervous but exciting time for everyone.”

This year is the first year a recent GVSU graduate is speaking at the event. With the success LaVere has had recently in his professional life as a photographer, one message he wants to leave the first-year students is to take advantage of all opportunities offered to them at GVSU.

“Do what you love to do,” LaVere said. “Not just what you think you should do.”

The ceremony also helps to cement new students’ relationships with GVSU.

“It’s something freshmen can relate to,” LaVere said. “Convocation is going to be a lot of energy and excitement.”

Convocation will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 22 in the Fieldhouse arena. Immediately following convocation, those in attendance are welcome to join the all-campus picnic luncheon in parking lot C next to the arena.