Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 11, 2023

Freshman Convocation rescheduled after Irene

By NASH JENKINS | September 14, 2011

Hopkins will officially welcome its new freshmen and transfer students to campus at Convocation, the annual ceremony hosted by Hopkins to commemorate their entrance into the Hopkins community.

Now scheduled for Monday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m., the event comes three weeks after the first day of classes and nearly a month after Orientation at Homewood.

"We've been here for awhile now, so it might not feel like the beginning of anything," said freshman John Boutillier. "But better late than never, I guess."

The delay was not a matter of choice for University officials, who were forced to postpone the event after Hurricane Irene forged its path along the Eastern seaboard.

The storm uprooted trees across campus, quarantined freshmen in their dorms on their first weekend at college and placed a damper on many Orientation events in spite of attempts to relocate indoors. Some orientation events were cancelled altogether. For the administration, however, Convocation was worthy of a second consideration.

"We knew we were going to reschedule it for sometime in September," Dorothy Sheppard, Associate Dean of Student Life, said. "Everyone was a little disappointed, but we didn't want people to be at risk because of the elements."

As a fixture in the Office of Student Life, Sheppard held the responsibility of overseeing Freshman Orientation, along with Robert Turning, Director of Greek Life and Orientation, known de facto by the freshman class as the purveyor of this summer's J-Blasts, the occasional e-mails written by Orientation staff to prepare incoming students for the turmoil of their first days at Hopkins.

According to Sheppard, rescheduling was an issue of convenience for both the university's students and higher-ups.

"There are less classes on Monday evenings than on other nights, and the 19th worked for the president, deans, and trustees," she said.

President Ronald Daniels will preside over the ceremony, flanked by Katherine S. Newman, James B. Knapp, Dean of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts & Sciences; Nick Jones, Benjamin T. Rome, Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering; and Pamela P. Flaherty, Chair of the Hopkins Board of Trustees.

Unlike the other rituals of Orientation, Convocation is one of pomp and relative formality.

"[It is] the Presidents' and Dean's official welcome to new students," Sheppard said.

At 6:30 on Monday night, new students will convene on the Freshman Quad by the Fresh Food Café and begin the processional to the ceremony itself.

Prior to the processional, the Class of 2015 will at last see the class banner on which they voted in July.

The winning banner – yellow and black, with "2015" in bold lettering – was designed by Oscar E. Reyes, a Honduran freshman living in Adams House of AMR II.

Convocation itself will be held in the Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation Center, a digression from the original Orientation agenda, which slated the event to be held in a steel-framed event tent on Decker Quad. The tent, which the university rents for large events, was deconstructed on Wednesday, August 24 in anticipation of Hurricane Irene.

According to Sheppard, the university will be credited for the tent's abrupt deconstruction; the credit will go towards another event requiring the tent.

"Perhaps next year's convocation," she said.

The event itself will last approximately a half-hour, during which President Daniels and the aforementioned university officials will welcome new students through a series of speeches.

For the bulk of the audience, the event will serve as little more than a warm ceremonial welcome to the Hopkins community.

For freshman Vamsi Chunduru, however, Convocation will be a night in the spotlight. Chunduru received first place in the essay contest for the freshman book read assignment, Strength In What Remains by Tracy Kidder. Chunduru will be recognized at Convocation for his essay in response to one of two prompts surrounding Kidder's novel. He also wins an iPad, courtesy of the Johns Hopkins Technology Store.

A dessert reception with university faculty will follow the ceremony. Afterwards, attending students will return home to their dormitories, officially "welcomed" to Hopkins, albeit a month into their stay here.

"I already feel so settled here, but I know I'll appreciate a ceremony welcoming me to Hopkins," freshman Eleni Padden said. "After all, it's a place I love."

Regardless of the surrounding scheduling issues, Sheppard advocated for the spirit and significance of the Convocation ceremony.

"Convocation makes students feel like they're part of the university, part of the bigger picture," she said. "They made a commitment to come here, and we made a commitment to welcome them.

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