New Student Convocation: Welcoming, Encouraging, Advising Incoming Toreros

A new year, a new level of education and a bevy of new experiences await the incoming first-year and new transfer students at the University of San Diego this fall. Yes, it also begins with remote learning and thus, the true impact of attending college, on a college campus, isn’t possible just yet.

But on Tuesday, which was the second day of the fall semester, USD administrators — President James T. Harris, Vice President and Provost Gail F. Baker, Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Vazquez, and undergraduate deans Tim Keane (School of Business), Chell Roberts (Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering) and Noelle Norton (College of Arts and Sciences) — wore academic regalia while extending well-wishes and welcomes to the newest Toreros at the annual new student convocation by virtual means.

President Harris expressed his joy upon learning that the incoming undergraduate class of 2024 represents some 38 countries, speaks 36 different languages, enters with an average of a 3.94 GPA and several first-years are first-generation college students.

Following an invocation from Assistant Vice President and Director of University Ministry Michael Lovette-Colyer, Dr. Norton expressed ways in which incoming Toreros will be exposed to a curriculum steeped in the Catholic intellectual tradition and consist of a challenging but fruitful liberal arts education.

Norton expressed that students who are fortunate to study at USD are “truly blessed,” and that she, her administrative colleagues, faculty, staff and the many resources existing at the university are positioned to assist you along the journey, but that it is your responsibility “to decide how you want to lead your life given what you’ve learned here.”

Norton quoted philosophers Michael Oakeshott and Elizabeth Minnich and author David Foster Wallace on such topics as how education can help human beings understand themselves (Oakeshott), the importance of attentiveness (Minnich), and, from a 2005 commencement speech, the freedom that liberal arts offers and how to avoid being unconscious (Wallace).

She closes by encouraging students to think and to consider the importance of locating and defining what will spark your interest while you are at USD gaining a valuable commodity of a liberal arts education.

Norton then introduced three USD alumni, one from each of the undergraduate schools, who each brought their perspective in how their USD education awakened them and how it continues to shine in what they do.

The three alumni, Adama Iwu ’05 (BA, Political Science), Devyn Bryant ’18 (BS/BA, Mechanical Engineering) and Danny Perales ’08 (BS Accountancy, MS Accountancy/Financial Management), each filled their respective toolboxes to help them progress after attending USD.

While Iwu was attending college, she gained a greater sense of being able to think critically and to lead with compassion. Currently the vice president of state government and community relations for Visa and an activist who in 2017 was part of a group of women honored as Time Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year as silence breakers connected to the #MeToo Movement. Her advice to students is to be “radically awake,” and “don’t get complacent.”

Bryant, who is an engineer for San Diego Gas and Electric, he offered up how gaining a liberal arts education helped him stretch his mind, especially when as an engineer, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering offers students a dual degree with equal parts engineering and a healthy dose of humanities and social science courses to make for a complete engineer. Bryant also expressed happiness for the people he met from all walks of life while at USD where he played football and was a great student.

Perales is the chief operating officer and chief financial officer at eyeBrain Medical, Inc., better known as Neurolens, in Orange County, Calif. He runs this start-up business that now employs 60 along with another USD alumnus, CEO Davis Corley. Perales and Corley met their first year at USD and were freshman roommates who both went through the School of Business’ accountancy undergraduate and master’s program. Perales graduated in 2008 and right in the middle of a tough job market and an economic downturn. But his education at USD prepared him for success thanks to two traits — a strong work ethic and a positive, can-do attitude. He realized these two things kept him on track while in school and they remain two traits he sees as important to work alongside. “Be the solution, not the problem.”

2020-21 Associated Student Government President Joey Abeyta then appeared on screen and led all new Toreros in reciting the academic integrity pledge.

Vice President and Provost Baker offered encouraging words that can advise new USD students on what is possible.

“Today, we begin a new chapter as Toreros Together. You’ve chosen to join a community dedicated to supporting you as you realize your potential, make mistakes, pursue your passion, and work hard to make a difference in this world,” she said. “… Remember, the most successful students explore, they take intellectual risks, they get to know people who are completely different from themselves, and they work in service to others. Your time is now. This is your defining moment.”

The program closed with a brief clip of the USD Concert Choir singing “O Love” by Elaine Hagenberg with photo clips from Spring 2020.

— Ryan T. Blystone


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