Topic: Student Affairs

August 22, 2016

students singing fight song

Leading by example, freshmen volleyball players Sydnee VanBeek (from left), Kate Avila and Anna Jensen stand during the “Ball State Fight Song” to show their school spirit.

Kristen McCauliff stood before thousands of freshman and her faculty colleagues in regalia Sunday in Worthen Arena, recalling a lesson she learned from her first-year history professor’s love of President Harry Truman.

An essay question at the end of the semester challenged her to name her favorite president and say why. She thought Truman was the easy answer, but the history lover, uncharacteristically, didn’t get an A.

The lesson for McCauliff, now an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies: College is a time to be bold, brave and prepared.

“Why didn’t I write about my own favorite president?” she asked rhetorically.

McCauliff, who encouraged freshmen to see their professors as partners in the learning experience, was one in a series of welcoming voices to the Class of 2020 at Worthen the day before classes begin.

Interim President Terry King imparted a message about campus involvement, urging students to take note of the hundreds of student organizations, and encouraged them to think of their time at Ball State as a crucial period in a lifetime of learning.

James Wells, president of the Student Government Association, addressed the crowd from a different perspective, as a current student, but conveyed a message similar to McCauliff’s.

He encouraged the freshmen to be courageous and determined, and yet, to pause to ask for help and take breaks along the way. And he urged them to learn all they could and apply themselves wholeheartedly to college. Wells then led the newly minted freshman class in the Beneficence Pledge.

Kicking off the convocation was music by the Da Camera Brass Quintet, the Women’s Chorus and the all-male Statesman. This was followed by traditional songs such as “Alma Mater” and the “Ball State Fight Song.”

Reading from the same book

After the convocation, the freshmen dispersed across campus into small reading groups to discuss this year’s Freshman Common Reader, “The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas,” by Anand Giridharadas, the true story of a Bangladeshi immigrant to the United States who was shot in the days after 9/11 and started a campaign to spare his attacker from execution.

students discussing Freshman Common Reader

Ally Stiles (left), a fashion merchandising major from Jeffersonville, Indiana, pairs up with Erika Balingit, an architecture major from Sellersburg, Indiana, to spend a couple minutes talking about the Freshman Common Reader before the group discussion begins.

Students received a copy of the book during summer Orientation and now had the opportunity to discuss it with their peers. Around 25 were in staff member Donna Browne’s group in a classroom in Whitinger Business Building. Anthony Wade, a native of Chicago, liked the book.

“It challenged me to look differently at immigration,” he said.

The book affected Matthew Yapp of Anderson, Indiana, too.

“I thought it was a really good look at justice … especially from different cultures.”

The Common Reader, along with the shared experiences of Orientation, Welcome Week and Freshman Convocation, put this large freshman class on a shared path.

It’s a path freshman Kate Avila of Yorktown, Indiana, said she’s ready for.

“I’m excited because it marks the start of a new journey. Like they said in the convocation, they want us to leave here a new person.”