11:49 AM

UHD Freshman Convocation Welcomes Incoming Gators to Campus

Soon, University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) classrooms will be filled with students engaging in critical thinking exercises and provocative discussions — and that's before the first day of classes.

On Saturday, Aug. 20, UHD hosts its 7th annual Freshman Convocation, an event to help usher new Gators into the fall semester and offer additional insights on the University's learning environment. The event offers freshmen an opportunity to meet members of the UHD community including faculty, mentors, staff members and UHD Interim President Michael A. Olivas. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner also will be on hand to offer well wishes to this next class of Gators.

Freshman Convocation also provides students with the unique pre-college experience of stepping into University classrooms to learn from professors and meet future classmates.

Freshman Convocation kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with a networking event in UHD's third floor cafeteria. At 9:30 a.m., students will adjourn to the neighboring Wilhelmina Cullen Robertson Auditorium, where Turner and Olivas will offer remarks. Other speakers include the event's co-chairs John Hudson, director of UHD's Center for Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Edmund Cueva, chair of UHD's Arts and Humanities Department. Students also will receive a video message by author Wes Moore. His memoir, "The Other Wes Moore," was adopted for this year's Freshman Common Reader program.

At 10:30 a.m., freshman Gators will move to the University's Academic Building for discussions on "The Other Wes Moore" with peers and professors.

"Events such as the Freshman Convocation are important in introducing students to intellectual discussions and making that transition from high school into a university setting," said Chris Birchak, dean of UHD's University College. "They're able to listen to different voices with different ideas and apply critical thinking to classroom conversations."

Moore's memoir follows the stories of two children sharing the same name. One Wes Moore rose to success in spite of his humble roots. Another Wes Moore, however, took a different route in life and found himself incarcerated. In addition to providing the foundations for Convocation classroom discussions, "The Other Wes Moore" is the focus of an essay and graphic art contest for UHD students. Details on this competition can be found here.

"This book explores themes of perseverance, facing failures, expectations of one's self and the importance of education," Birchak said. "These are topics that will resonate with our students during their first year in college. "

Freshman Convocation wraps up UHD summer orientation activities aimed at welcoming new students to campus and familiarizing them with the University. Students attending this event will have participated in Gator Ready, a half-day program aimed at enrolling freshmen and introducing them to academic advisors. During Gator Ready, students were provided with copies of "The Other Wes Moore."

Convocation participants also will have experienced Gator Gateway, a new five-day program aimed at preparing students for a successful transition to college. During Gator Gateway, students engaged in sample classes with UHD faculty members, discussed academic goals and learned about the University's campus and its resources. Both Gator Ready and Gator Gateway are components of a #UHD2020, a new student success initiative that welcomes freshmen to the University, connects them with peers and creates a strong campus community.

"Working for many years to prepare for each annual Freshman Convocation and helping to launch young scholars into a new chapter of their academic journeys has been very satisfying indeed," Hudson said. "This year is especially exciting as we welcome freshmen who have, through Gator Gateway, already created a unique feeling of community, camaraderie, and Gator spirit. In this sense, the class of 2020 opens a new chapter in UHD's history as an academic community."