New Student Convocation officially marks the beginning of a collegiate journey

September 7, 2018

Nearly 30 people had a hand in physically transforming the Fieldhouse game-time space into a location for a warm Wolverine welcome.

More than 2,300 UM-Dearborn students were hailed at the 16th Annual New Student Convocation. The new faces to campus were from around the world, representing five continents; their ages spanned generations, 16 to 77.

They came together Sept. 4 as first-time Wolverines in the Fieldhouse.

“Today’s ceremony marks the official beginning of your lives as Michigan students within the Michigan family. And it is particularly special for me because we are beginning this journey together,” said Chancellor Domenico Grasso, who became the sixth UM-Dearborn chancellor on Aug. 1. “Being a proud Michigan alum, I’m returning home. And, like me, you couldn't have picked a better place to call home.”

From the maize and blue floral arrangements to the staging area with UM-seal stamped podium, students and their families were surrounded by pomp and circumstance.

And that's thanks to the many staff members who worked behind the scenes prior to the ceremony. For almost a week nearly 30 people had a hand in transforming the game-time space into a location for a proper wolverine welcome.

And their work was noticed by the many in attendance at Convocation. UM-Dearborn parent Elizabeth O’Connor—whose stepson Brandon O'Connor and son Alexander Thornton are in the fall 2018 freshman class—had her phone out to snap photos and send text messages to family to include them in on the day’s festivities.

O'Connor said she was impressed with what she saw and heard at Convocation and felt confident about their college choice.

“The ceremony, the speakers and the space — everything was very nice today,” she said. "I'm glad I was able be here today to learn more about UM-Dearborn and how this campus will prepare them for what the future brings."

But before the Michigan family could sing The Victors, someone had to set the stage. Here are a few of the people who make New Student Convocation happen.

Senior Marc Casey, Fieldhouse recreational assistant, and a crew of students placed thousands of carpet squares—he estimates 3,000—on the floor to add a feeling of warmth to the space and protect the wooden basketball court.

The 30-foot tall blue draperies are hung by staff lowering a mechanical bar and attaching the curtains; the staging is made of six separate pieces that workers set up and then crawl underneath to lock in place.

A day after the carpet squares and stage were set up, Larry Arpi, left, and Winston Cannon in Maintenance Services secure the maize rugs on the stage; the staff said the large rugs had enough time to rest and flatten.

These chairs appeared overnight thanks to the night facilities crew. To make sure the chairs were in a straight line, the crew used duct tape and string on the carpet squares. They then zip-tied the chairs together for even spacing and to assure compliance with fire codes.

The seal-stamped podium, which weighs 200 pounds, is taken from its protective case and lifted onto the stage. “When we bring it out and wheel it around, people look at us like we’ve got the Stanley Cup,” said Rob Sharkus in Maintenance Services.

Maintenance Services' Mike Gibson set up the podium’s lighting and motorized adjustable mechanism. After he was done, Television Engineer Greg Taylor hooked up the sound system.

Getting close to the end of set up, staff members work on finishing touches like stage skirting, stair dusting and vacuuming.

Done every three years, Larry Arpi takes time to paint the two stage stairways to touch-up any visible wear. 

Custodial staff member Agnes Arzola does a final vacuum to get ready for the new class of Wolverines to come to New Student Convocation.

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