By Meredith Heagney
The new students stepped, two-by-two, from a dark hallway into the golden glow of the majestic theatre, accompanied by applause and the swell of a classical march. Some of them snapped cell phone photos of the grand arches and balconies of the Auditorium Theatre before taking their seats for Roosevelt University’s convocation ceremony.
Bryce Genovese, 18, couldn’t do much more than gawk. The first-year vocal performance student was overwhelmed, he said, both by the theatre’s staggering beauty and by the momentous occasion at hand.
“I was thinking of my future, thinking that I was sitting here, in my seat, as a freshman, and before I know it I’ll be graduating,” said Genovese, a native of Michigan who is now part of the Chicago College of Performing Arts. “My hope is to grow not only as a musician but as a person.”
That growth – between convocation and commencement – is what Roosevelt is all about, President Chuck Middleton said in his address to new students.
“This is your calling. This is your destiny. This is your purpose,” he told students. “A question I want you to ask yourself every day you’re a Roosevelt student, (up until) your commencement: How will I change the world?”
The ceremony, at the University’s campus in downtown Chicago, was Roosevelt’s second in as many days. The Schaumburg campus community celebrated their convocation on Aug. 21.
In total, Roosevelt expects more than 600 first-year students when enrollment numbers are finalized, a number that would beat the previous record of 574 in 2009. About 500 transfer students and 500 graduate students also have enrolled, said Douglas Knerr, executive vice president and university provost.
Sixteen new faculty and 53 new staff members were welcomed, too. In Chicago, the faculty filled the center rows of the theatre, dressed in their academic regalia. The colorful robes and hoods and tassels also are worn on graduation day.
The start of the year is exciting for faculty, too, said Lawrence Fisher, associate professor of integrated marketing communications, as he waited for the processional to begin. He’s starting his eighth year at Roosevelt. “Having new students is sort of a rebirth for us,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to recommit yourself to what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The ceremony held no shortage of inspiration. Faculty speaker Steven Meyers, professor of psychology, said Roosevelt is “about the education of the head, the education of the heart and the education of the hands…the ability to not only see inequality and see problems but do something about it.”
Rachel Pieczura, ’16, gave advice as a seasoned college student, playing off the convocation theme emblazoned on the t-shirts worn by students and staff: be brave. be bold. begin. “Take advantage of the connections you will make,” Pieczura said. “Get involved. Take a chance. This is the time.”
In Schaumburg the day before, student speaker Rahmin Benyamin, ’16, struck a similar tone. He told the story of meeting Renee Roth, assistant director of the library, and how their friendship led to a summer-long shadowing opportunity with her husband, a physician at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. For Benjamin, who wants to attend medical school after graduation, that was invaluable.
“I learned how to carry myself as a physician and how to properly interact in a hospital setting. This is an experience I will never forget; it gave a preview for my future,” Benyamin said.
“That’s the message I wanted to send to all the new students: You have to show the willingness to step outside your comfort zone and interact with everyone because you never know how someone will impact you.”
Those opportunities are now at hand for a new group of Roosevelt students; fall semester classes begin Aug. 23.
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