President Wrighton and Provost Bracey challenged new students to make an impact on the world.
By Nick Erickson
While the George Washington University’s Class of 2026 was celebrated in a jovial ceremony—complete with renditions of the GW Fight Song and Alma Mater during Saturday’s Convocation at the Charles E. Smith Center, the school’s first-year students were also challenged to utilize the resources now available to them to make positive change in a world that needs it.
Speaking to first-year students just days before the start of the 2022-23 academic year for undergraduate students, President Mark S. Wrighton urged the GW first-year and transfer students to continue strengthening the university’s engaged, inclusive and intellectual community.
“Being here in Washington, D.C., reminds us just how great and unique this opportunity is—to advocate for change you believe in and to have a positive impact on problems locally, nationally, and globally, whether it be the pandemic, racial injustice, climate change or divisiveness in national discourse,” Wrighton said. “Such big challenges are rarely solved alone, or even among a group of similar people. When we work to understand one another better, we build mutual trust and a supportive community.”
The Class of 2026 got right to work on that mission during the Welcome Day of Service. After Convocation, they boarded buses for sites around the D.C. region to serve local citizens and neighborhoods.
Provost Christopher Alan Bracey told students that they are now at an institution that will show them how to address society’s most complex challenges with their own perspectives and personalities.
He specifically spoke about recent Supreme Court rulings, the fight for LGBTQ rights and the ongoing Ukraine crisis as some of the challenges this incoming class will have to work to solve.
Bracey informed the students of the university’s long history of answering such calls, pointing to students organizing marches to support civil rights, pro-peace campaigns and even brought up how the recently renovated Thurston Hall was a site of anti-Vietnam War protests in 1970.
“You are fortunate to attend a university with a long history of 200 years of faculty and, most importantly, students working for issues that they feel most passionate about,” Bracey said. “GW students don’t simply talk about a better future. They work to make that future a reality.”
Rising senior computer science major Rubin Roy is one such student who has demonstrated that through action. Roy, the student speaker, has garnered many accomplishments and achievements since arriving at the university three years earlier. He is president of GW Cyber, social innovation commissioner for the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, vice president of the Finance and Investment Club and was named a Presidential Merit Scholar during his sophomore year. He has also landed numerous prestigious internships and opportunities outside the classroom while at GW.
But Roy’s message to students three classes below him was to celebrate achievements but not construct an identity around them.
“In order to grow and make change in our world, we each need to reflect on the service that we do and are about to do,” Roy said. “Make sure our own knowledge and values are not just impactful and meaningful to us, but also sustainable within the communities we serve.”
Not only does GW have premier access to some of the world’s most influential policymaking and business centers that students can use to their advantage, but the university is also a global research institution. Wrighton, a renowned chemist himself, told students that while they have already demonstrated they can learn from what others know, they should also take part in the opportunity to create new knowledge that will impact society.
In closing his speech, Wrighton implored students to go to class and to not abuse alcohol or other drugs. He also said his great expectation was that the GW community will always show respect for another, even if they disagree from time to time. He encouraged students to take full advantage of every moment, to do things differently than they may normally choose and to look for new opportunities to broaden their minds.
“This is the perfect time to explore new opportunities,” Wrighton said. “I can assure you that these offerings are in your interest and will remind you why you came to the George Washington University–to learn here, to grow here and to add to the legacy of more than 200 years of students who have been making a difference in the lives of others.”
Deans of each individual school welcomed their particular students. Columbian College of Arts and Sciences rising senior Allyson Bonhaus led a call to action by informing the Class of 2026 of TurboVote, a nonpartisan voting tool the university utilizes to make the voting process easier and more accessible to students. The Class of 2026 then filed out of the arena and on to buses that took them to their first taste of making a difference in the community as GW students.