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DATE: August 1, 2003

UM-Dearborn will kick off new academic year with first-ever Freshman Convocation

DEARBORN---This fall's new freshman students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn will be welcomed to campus with a daylong series of events designed to initiate them into the academic life.

The student-success workshops and Freshman Convocation will be held Sept. 3, the day before classes begin, and will include community-building experiences and seminars with faculty and students to learn about strategies for academic success in college.

A formal convocation ceremony in the Fieldhouse will be the centerpiece of the day, followed by an ice cream social for new students, their parents, and participating faculty and staff. The ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. and include a procession of faculty members and new students, music from a brass ensemble and remarks by Chancellor Daniel Little.

"The purpose of the Freshman Convocation is to introduce students to the educational values and academic expectations of UM-Dearborn," according to Donna L. McKinley, vice chancellor for student affairs. "By conducting the convocation in the formal style used in commencement, we hope to inspire our new students to view their first day of classes as the beginning of a process worthy of their full engagement."

More than 800 first-year students are expected to enroll on campus this fall, and the Freshman Convocation has been designed to immerse them in the life and culture of the campus from their first day here.

"We know that the key to retention of students is to get them engaged with people on campus, especially with faculty members and other students," McKinley said. "That's a challenge for any college, and especially for a commuter campus, so this program is one way to get new students connected to the campus. It is also reflective of Chancellor Little's interest in enhancing our sense of community and tradition on campus."

When they arrive on campus at the beginning of the day, the freshman students will participate in "Operation Adventure." That will be followed by seminars designed to help the new students make the transition from high school to college. A faculty member will address "What do faculty expect?" and a student panel will discuss "What I wish I'd known."

At a picnic lunch, tables will be identified by academic majors, so new students can meet faculty members and other students interested in the same disciplines.

Katie Anderson-Levitt, professor of anthropology and interim dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters at UM-Dearborn, is a strong supporter of the program. "Rituals are more powerful than you might think," she said. "The procession and a few brief talks give us the chance to impress on students that this is not high school: a different kind of learning is expected. Such occasions also permit faculty members to reflect as a group on why we are here, and give us a little boost for the work ahead."




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