Friday afternoon may have marked the first time that “The Wave” was ever performed prior to a collegiate convocation. Regardless of its historical perspective, the spontaneously enthusiastic actions of the Gallagher Center audience put into context the build-up of excitement for Niagara University’s 16th annual New Student Convocation.
The bookend event has become a rite of passage at NU. It represents the first time that incoming freshmen, transfers and veteran-students are officially called together as a class. It’s also the final orientation activity that new Purple Eagles and their families attend in unison before, as Niagara’s associate provost, Dr. Henrik Borgstrom, put it, “parents let their sons and daughters soar.”
During the convocation, Dr. Timothy O. Ireland, provost, told the crowd that he began his tenure as a college student 37 years ago on an 80-degree, sun-soaked day like this one, remarking at how quickly time passes.
“I still remember my feelings as a first-year student,” he said. “And I guarantee that many of you are feeling what I felt so long ago: a little anxious, a little nervous and very excited.
“My recommendation to you is to embrace the entirety of the experience.”
Dr. Ireland added that he recently helped his daughter, a May college graduate, move to Vermont to commence a career in distilling. He described the bittersweet occasion as a natural and healthy part of life – but not one that is necessarily easy.
“I’m very proud of my daughter, but I’m going to miss her immensely,” said Dr. Ireland. “Change is good, but it can be hard. Embrace the change. I believe that change brings forth unexpected challenges and unanticipated opportunities for growth, wisdom and, maybe most importantly, character.”
Prior to leading the recitation of the Student Creed, Niagara University Student Government Association president Cheyenne Freely conceded that she initially viewed her admittance to NU as nothing more than a stepping stone to law school. She had no intention of getting involved in clubs or sports like she had been in high school at Mount St. Mary Academy; rather, “I was going to focus solely on my classes, keep to myself and graduate early.”
Freely said she considers herself fortunate that her “master plan was derailed” as she got acquainted with her peers and the mission-based learning that is espoused at Niagara University. Seeking to make an impact on campus and within the greater community, Freely ran – and won – a seat on the NUSGA senate as a sophomore before taking on roles as a treasurer and, later, vice president of the junior class. In April, she was voted NUSGA president.
“With every new position, I found that the challenges grew, but the struggles to overcome these challenges have made me a more confident and ambitious individual,” noted Freely, who is majoring in international studies and political science. “Although I pride myself on my personal achievements, I am even more proud of the ways in which I have been able to push others (to achieve). Both inside and outside of the classroom, I have continually made efforts to push my peers toward their own success.”
“Academic success comes first and foremost from accepting that you don’t have all the answers and that your opinions are not always right,” said Siragusa, a first-generation college student. “Listen to everyone around you. There is always something you can learn from your classmates, colleagues and, especially, your professors.”
The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University’s 26th president, concluded the convocation with brief, but impactful, words of wisdom.
“As you listened to the stories of Cheyenne, Carlos and Meghan, three uniquely gifted and diverse young people, you’ll notice that they share something in common: they have engaged Niagara University – its faculty, its administration, its campus, the community and their fellow students. They have made that choice to engage Niagara University,” said Father Maher.
“Therefore, when they graduate, they will leave Niagara University with great confidence, with a great clarity of direction of where they are headed, and with a heightened sense of purpose for their lives. That’s the secret and the formula for happiness and success in life. That is The Power of Niagara University.”