Convocation message: Become your own centerpiece

With a mix of excitement, anxiety and apprehension, the Class of 2027 was officially welcomed into the Heidelberg family on Thursday during Opening Convocation – the official start of the 2023-34 academic year.

Opening Convocation – one of Heidelberg’s longest-standing traditions – kicked off with the typical pomp and circumstance as a bookend to the same tradition the Class of ’27 will experience when they graduate.

As a rite of passage into the Heidelberg family, the new students participated in T-Bridge. They also received their beanies and “H” pins, preceding the Convocation ceremony.

Provost Bryan Smith, who sat in the same seats as the new students 36 years ago as a Heidelberg freshman, shared advice from his perspective. He told the students, “Take advantage of all the opportunities and resources that Heidelberg offers, like Aim HEI, HYPE and the Owen Center. Get to know your faculty and advisors, and rely on them. All of us are here to serve you and help you on your journey.”

Following the provost, President Rob Huntington officially welcomed a total of 295 first-year students, 22 new transfer students and 10 returning new students.

His message to the new students: “Please get engaged and be intentional about everything you imagine. Jump on all the Opportunities and grab all the Advantages of this University!”

The composition of this year’s new class is as follows:

•    2% identify as non-binary
•    9% are in the Honors Program
•    9% are Heidelberg legacies
•    14% are from Tiffin/Seneca County
•    15% came to Heidelberg with 4.0 or higher GPA
•    22% are from underrepresented populations
•    23% are from out-of-state
•    28% participated in Scholars Day
•    36% are first-generation students
•    41% are female; 57% are male
•    63% have expressed in Athletics

“All 327 students are motivated to succeed.  This freshman class is smart, talented, and interesting,” President Huntington said. 

‘Make yourself the centerpiece of your success’

'Berg alum Keshawn Womack traveled back to campus from her home in the San Francisco area to inspire the future alumni as the Convocation keynote speaker. Since graduating with her degree in communication & theatre arts in 1998, Keshawn has spent the past 25 years in the corporate and entertainment industries. She has been a communicator, a content strategist and a brand marketing expert for major names in TV, video games and big tech companies across the U.S.

She told the new students that her path to success – both as a student at Heidelberg and in her career – was never as clear-cut as she thought it would be. But her willingness to pivot to “soak up every experience as if it was your last opportunity to get on the path you’re destined to be on” has served her well.

“There was no way I would be successful today if I had not changed my mindset, my work ethic and mentally dug in,” Keshawn said. “I had to make myself the centerpiece of my success. Not friends, not relationships, not sports, not Greek life. Just me.”

While at Heidelberg, Keshawn seized every opportunity available to hone her skills in media, from internships to working at WHEI radio and TV stations. Shortly after graduation, she landed her dream job at CNN, but quickly realized it was not what she expected nor what made her happy.

“I had the horrible realization that I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t because I had to work hard, Or because I wasn’t behind the news desk. I just didn’t like the idea of what I need to do in order to maintain the hustle and bustle of a journalist in real life, day in and day out,” she explained.

She paused, hit reset and transitioned from the newsroom to producing content “and I love it.”

“Developing video game strategies was not my dream career. But the transition allowed me to see a greater opportunity and purpose that I was not able to see until I was knocked off my intended course.”

Her first job at CNN wasn’t a mistake; instead, it taught her what she was not meant to do. And Heidelberg was the catalyst that helped her form the foundation of skills that she needed to make a new success story.

Making yourself the centerpiece for your success will lead to personal and professional growth, Keshawn told the students. 

“In order to become something you’ve never been, you have to DO things you’ve never done. Real growth comes from pushing boundaries, even if there’s no instant gratification in front of you. …

“The world needs who you were made to be,” Keshawn said. “It’s ultimately up to you to be brave enough and disciplined enough to meet the challenge. … Chart your path and go get it!

About those traditions …

Ashley Helmstetter, associate VP for Advancement, Alumni, and Community Relations,l explained the origin and significance of the T-Bridge, beanie “H” pin, plus Heidelberg’s “most precious” tradition – “Sweet Alma Home.”

“In every significant moment – from Convocation today to Commencement in four years – alumni here and around the world, we close by singing our alma mater,” she explained.

Among those participating in Convocation, the Chamber Singers and Director Dr. Greg Ramsdell led the audience in the singing of Sweet Alma Home.

Also participating in making the event memorable were: the Heidelberg Marching Band, under the direction of Rod Miller; National Anthem and Lift Every Voice and Sing soloists Jayce Porter ‘24 and Zaria Keys ‘25; Camryn Hedrick ‘24, who delivered the Invocation; and Student Senate President Isaiah Young, who introduced the keynote speaker. 

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