Convocation in gym
It was a packed house at this year's New Student Convocation in the new Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center.

Blockbuster of a convocation

Record-setting freshman class revels in welcome at 'amazing' Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center

August 21, 2018

Until Friday’s ceremony, freshmen Leo Ruffolo and Andy Womer weren’t exactly sure what “convocation” meant. They sure know now.

The New Student Convocation marks the official welcome for all new students to the University of Colorado Denver, and what a blockbuster it was:

  • record-breaking student and parent attendance (over 700 students, some 800 parents and family members);
  • strong faculty and administration participation (about 120);
  • soulful music performed by Mix, CU Denver’s award-winning a cappella group;
  • all inside the sparkling-new Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center. The second-floor gymnasium offered students and their family stunning views of downtown Denver.

Having convocation unfold before a huge crowd in a beautiful space — students called the new facility “amazing” — created a special buzz of excitement.

Crown jewel of campus

CU in the field
Students gathered on the athletic fields to form the University of Colorado’s interlocking CU logo.

The annual festivities began with school and college receptions, followed by the full-class gathering, which included the pinning ceremony (affixing the CU Denver pin to a garment), and concluded with a barbecue on the athletic fields. The ceremony marks the start of each student’s time at CU Denver; the bookend of this academic journey comes the next time each student dons a gown — when it’s paired with a graduation mortar board.

Ruffolo said he enjoyed the message delivered by keynote speaker Jack Kroll, a CU Regent and CU Denver alumnus (BA ’11). Kroll told the crowd that “getting involved is what makes this place work,” pointing out how student government members initiated the Student Wellness Center idea a few years ago. “Now it’s one of the crown jewels our our campus.”

Hearing the story made an impression on Ruffolo, a public affairs major. “That’s a pretty good way to motivate the students (to get involved),” he said.

‘Let’s build community’

Womer, meanwhile, enjoyed the “let’s build community” message delivered by Amber Long, executive director of Wellness & Recreation Services. Long got the room buzzing when she told students to stand, greet their neighbors and take a picture with them. “The selfie idea was a great way to familiarize yourself with two more faces,” said Womer, a marketing major.

Convocation procession
New CU Denver students carried the banners of their respective schools and colleges into the gymnasium during the convocation procession.

Other speakers included Chancellor Dorothy Horrell, Provost Roderick Nairn, Student Government Vice President Frida Silva and Convocation Marshal Maryam Darbeheshti, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Silva urged her classmates to “put meaning behind ‘CU in the City,’” discover their passions, leave the university better than when they arrived, and, most of all, “have fun!”

‘Exciting time at CU Denver’

Spirit at Fall 2018 convocation
Spirits ran high at this year’s New Student Convocation festivities.

Nairn said the freshman class, arriving at a “very exciting time at CU Denver,” is the biggest and most diverse in the university’s history. This year’s class of approximately 1,700 incoming freshmen marks a 13 percent increase over last year, and more than 58 percent self-identify as students of color.

Chancellor Horrell told the students that the beginning of the academic year heralds feelings of possibility. “You are embarking on an experience that will change the trajectory of your life,” she said. “You’re preparing for a future of greater opportunities that will enable you to make a significant difference in our world. … It’s a privilege to walk alongside you in that journey.”

Kroll regaled students with his CU Denver experience, and received strong applause when he said, “we’ll teach you how to think, not what to think.” He told the students they will likely never again be exposed to such a diversity of perspectives in one place, so “embrace it and learn from it.”

He closed by saying, “We believe in you. We are putting our faith in you. We need you to stand up and tackle the great challenges of our time. We’ll be here for you — I guarantee that!”