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Four freshmen with maroon and gold tassels.

This fall, the University welcomes 5,471 new students. One-third of them were in the top 10 percent of their class, and 243 are valedictorians.

U gives Class of 2010 a warm welcome

By Pauline Oo

Sept. 6, 2006

...Rah, rah, rah for Ski-U-Mah!
Rah! Rah! Rah! Rah!
Rah for the U of M!...

If they didn't know the Minnesota Rouser before they came to the University, they know it now. Or, at least, they recognize it.

On Tuesday, the first day of classes, thousands of University of Minnesota freshmen and transfer students packed Northrop Auditorium on the Twin Cities campus for New Student Convocation. In addition to learning the school fight songs, the students had the chance to meet University President Bob Bruininks and more than 100 faculty members, all dressed to the nines in full academic regalia.

"Convocation is our chance to personally welcome the students," says Laura Coffin Koch, associate vice provost for first-year programs. The event began as the "Freshman Welcome" in 1926, but it was discontinued in 1969 amid rising activism and sinking campus spirit. In 1998 the official student welcome was renewed. Over the past decade, the University has placed special emphasis on the first-year experience by reintroducing convocation, reorganizing orientation for students and parents, and offering freshman seminars and the Student Excellence in Academics and Multiculturalism program, which helps to ensure that students of color succeed in their first year.

This fall the University welcomes 5,471 new students. They come from 41 states and 23 countries, with an average high school rank of 83.2. One-third of them were in the top 10 percent of their class, and 243 are valedictorians.

Quotable Quotes from convocation speakers

"Don't be afraid to challenge yourself; that is one of the many reasons we are here. Of course we may make a few mistakes here and there because we're only human. What counts the most is what we do to get back on track and not make the same mistakes twice."--Ambreasha Frazier, Institute of Technology, Class of 2010

"Don't expect to knot it all. Be proactive. Don't just seek out opportunities through others. Personally, get involved. [For example,] join a club or get to know the professors."--Meghan Keating, College of Liberal Arts, 2006 graduate

"Find time to do well academically, but have fun too--not too much fun."--Marshall Stern, animal science professor

"Go Gophers!"--Tim Diem, Marching Band director

* This year the 300-member marching band includes 101 rookies from the class of 2010.

"Members of the Class of 2010, we are proud to have you here, and to welcome you as part of a heritage that extends back before the founding of this state--some 155 years," said Bruininks in his convocation address. He announced the dedication of the Scholars Walk, groundbreaking for the new on-campus Gopher football stadium later this month and the greatly expanded scholarship funding for University students. He spoke of the progress of the University's Strategic Positioning initiative and the U's goal to become one of the top three public research universities in the world in the next decade. He also urged the class to graduate in four years.

Each student was given an envelope upon entering the auditorium and instructed not to open it until Bruininks gave them the go-ahead. Inside, they found a maroon-and-gold graduation tassel with their graduation year.

"This tassel represents the reason that you are here today," Bruininks said. "To receive the education you came here to get, to grow as the global citizen and leader that we know you are capable of becoming and to graduate from the University in 2010, four short years from now."

Last year almost three-quarters of the U's incoming freshmen said they expected to graduate in four years. But in reality, only about a quarter of each incoming class does. The U wants to change that, aiming to improve the four-year graduation rate to 50 percent by the year 2012. It was 36 percent last year.

"Hang this tassel someplace where you will see it every day as a reminder of the goal that you have before you, and of the connection you have to your classmates in this auditorium today," Bruininks said.

In 1996, the University introduced a four-year graduation plan, an agreement between the student and the University that guarantees institutional support for completing degrees within four years. Under the plan, the student agrees to meet certain expectations for academic planning and performance. In turn, the University agrees to ensure that the classes the student needs will be available. If the University cannot provide a required course, offer a substitution or waive the requirement, it will pay the student's tuition to stay an extra semester to complete the course. About half of entering freshmen are signing up for the plan.

Louisiana Governor Blanco speaks at UMM convocation

On Tuesday, the Honorable Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, the first woman to serve as governor of Louisiana, gave the convocation address at the 2006 First Year Seminar on the Morris campus (UMM). Blanco was originally scheduled to speak last year, but her visit was postponed due to Hurricane Katrina. To listen to her speech in mp3 format, visit UMM. Blanco is the mother-in-law of Michael Eble, UMM assistant professor of studio art and curator of the Humanities Fine Arts Gallery.

Following the official welcome in Northrop, the U of M Marching Band led the new students to Coffman Union, where they were treated to a free dinner and more festivities.

Yeaaaaaaah Gophers!

Further reading Read more about the University's efforts to enhance the first-year experience for students in "Transforming the Freshman Experience".

Learn more about the U's four-year graduation plan.

Read more about the the U's orientation and first-year programs.