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A Convocation for Extraordinary Times

Distinguished officials welcome the Class of 2024 via video

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Dr. Fanta Aw, vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence

The hallowed tradition of convocation got a COVID-19 inspired twist this year, as AU dignitaries spoke remotely in a convocation video.

“This is not the convocation we planned,” noted Dr. Fanta Aw, vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, “but, as Eagles, we know how to adapt and embrace change.”

As part of this year’s unique convocation, Schanelle Saldanha, student body vice president; Peter Starr, acting provost and chief academic officer; and Rob Johnson, president of the AU Alumni Association appeared remotely with words of welcome and encouragement. Amitav Acharya, Scholar-Teacher of the Year, spoke about the perseverance of John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, and his own father, who survived the smallpox pandemic in Southeast Asia, then called upon AU’s newest students to “make our world safer for diversity.”

President Sylvia M. Burwell welcomed the Class of 2024, whom she described as “active, informed, and engaged,” noting that each and every one of them was selected for their “unique purpose and passion.” Burwell spoke about what it means to be an Eagle: “We never stop learning, listening, and growing—together.” She declared that this incoming cohort of Eagles is “the class that is going to change our world for the better.”

Aside from the video, some members of the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion shared their hopes for the class of 2024 and offered useful advice. 

“You are here because we believe in you and in your potential to overcome adversity, to reach higher, and to build a better world,” said Ximena Varela, director of the CAS arts management program,  while SIS professor Malini Ranganathan reminded incoming students to “be bold with your thinking and ideas for how to reshape the world so that it is more humane, antiracist, and livable.” 

“Learn to know people that are not like you,” suggested SOC professor Leena Jayaswal.“Find friends, groups, take risks that put you out of your comfort zone to understand the experiences of someone who may not look like you.”   
Students and alumni on the council joined in, with Tamir Harper, BA/SOC ’22, reminding the Class of 2024 to “come prepared to not only talk to the talk but walk the walk.”

Melanie Brown, CAS/BA ’02, a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, asked students to give back. “We all know our AU rallying cry, ‘once an eagle, always an eagle,’” Brown said, “But a rallying cry is more than a word or a phrase. It requires action. It requires us to rally, to come together, to act.” 

To send your welcoming wishes to the Class of 2024, use the hashtag #AUWelcome on social media.