Students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University of Washington-Tacoma gathered with families, friends and the broader Tacoma community on a beautiful fall day Sept. 30 for UTW’s fourth annual Convocation, an event to welcome new and returning students to the University.
Assembling at the campus’ outdoor plaza, anticipation grew among the crowd as two UWT student parade contingents made their way to campus from the Museum of Glass and University Y Student Center starting points. Even Huskies mascot Harry the Husky was there to take part in the festivities. With Lincoln and Curtis High School drum lines setting a celebratory beat, excitement filled the crowd as the drumming grew closer to campus and UWT students converged on the courtyard stairs. Beaming smiles seemed to be on every face and cheering filled the air at this truly welcoming convocation day.
UWT Chancellor Mark Pagano welcomed everyone from the stage podium. He then introduced Puyallup Tribal Chairman Bill Sterud, who Pagano called “a dear friend of the University of Washington-Tacoma, someone who represents a special partner to us on this campus, a fellow leader and colleague in the effort to both advance and preserve the wonderful heritage and culture of this place many of us call home.”
“Go Huskies!” Sterud shouted, and the crowd roared in approval. “Welcome to the Puyallup Reservation. I’m honored to be standing in front of you in this beautiful place.”
He gave a special shout out for the UWT teaching faculty. “There are people here who spent years and years learning the educational process, who have spent their lives to become teachers. You’ve got the best teachers around and I think they all should be given a good round of applause. The years they spent to get to where they are is just amazing.”
Asking everyone to stand, Sterud offered up this prayer to the Great Spirit Grandfather, and spoke directly to the students as well: “Grandfather, bless the veterans among us here and who aren’t among us here. What they’ve done for this country, for us, is immeasurable. From what I hear, there are students here who have been a part of that sacrifice. Grandfather, we owe them what we have and please give them an easy path as they go through their new careers - to the many students, looking to create another direction and better way too – another way to be. It’s important. When I see this enthusiasm, Grandfather, it makes my heart feel good and makes my feelings for the future feel good.
“Grandfather, help our young people to learn about the world as it exists today then help them, Grandfather, to take what they’ve learned and make it a better place for all of us, for all of mankind. Grandfather, help them get a vision for the future and make that vision real. Grandfather, help our young people to triumph over the hard times that they’re going to face as students, as adults, as people, in all their lives. Grandfather, bless the whole bunch of people it that took these kids – these adults – and made them what they are today and that’s Mom and Dad, that’s Grandma and Grandpa, that’s Aunts and Uncles, that’s relatives, that’s friends. They’re all really proud of you, and they’re going to watch your success because your success is a part of their success.
“Finally Grandfather, let these people here in their days of college and fun, to have fun and enjoy it. I almost said you’re only young once, but in your mind, your heart and in your soul, you can always be young.
“I look forward to all of your success. Thank you, and to all my relations.”
Melissa Lavitt, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, was there celebrating her very first UWT Convocation. She recognized the hardworking staff and faculty and individuals among the UWT leadership team. “Look around you and take a moment to say thanks to these dedicated individuals who are all here with one job – to help you succeed,” she said.
To the students Lavitt said, “You are the star of today’s gathering – you students, those that are new, those that are returning, and even those like our friends from Lincoln and Curtis who are not yet enrolled here at UWT. You are the very reason we do what we do. You have summoned us to provide you with an education that will transform your lives and we gladly and proudly rise to the occasion.”
In closing, she asked the students to do one thing – take an active part in the UWT. “You need to own this journey. As you settle in to this new stage in your life, reach out and connect whether by volunteering, joining a student organization, by getting to know your professors or by raising your voice so your particular message can be heard. Getting engaged is the secret to college success.”
Deputy Mayor Ryan Mello gave congratulations on behalf of Mayor Marilyn Strickland and the Tacoma City Council. “At the City of Tacoma, we are absolutely committed to your success and your learning…and to your fun. I chose to make the city of Tacoma my home because this place is fun. I fell in love with this community – its parks, its waterfront, its neighborhoods, its businesses but most of all, its people. The people here are amazing and when you fully engage in this community, I know that you’ll find it a great place to live, learn, raise a family and have a career.”
Student body president Berkan Koroglu asked everyone to take their cellphones out and capture the moment with chants of “UWT! UWT!”
“There are those moments in your life where you want everything to freeze…and I can say that this is one of those moments. I just appreciate all of you guys,” he said then took a moment to tell everyone present of the core values that guide the work of UWT: honesty, integrity, to respect the dignity and rights of all persons, to support freedom of expression, to pursue intellectual and personal development, to engage in critical thinking and discovery and to improve the local community and the world.
New UWT students then lined up to receive their UWT pin and everyone was invited to enjoy a barbecue lunch.
“Students, please take the pin you’re about receive and let it remind you of the UWT community of which you are now an integral part,” Chancellor Pagano said. “As you wear that pin, remember that it represents a commitment that you have made with us and that we have made with you. I’ve worn my UWT pin every day since I’ve worked here and I would not think of coming to campus with having it on and I hope you do the same. We are truly here for each other.”