President LeBlanc, Provost Blake, school deans and student leaders officially welcomed first-year students in a virtual ceremony.
Incoming George Washington University students received a warm virtual welcome during the Convocation ceremony on Wednesday, with President Thomas LeBlanc telling students that he remains optimistic about higher education because it is the greatest force for social good.
The annual event introduces first-year students to university administrators, faculty and the GW community. Virtual Convocation included recorded messages not only from Dr. LeBlanc but also from Provost M. Brian Blake, school deans and student leaders.
Dr. LeBlanc began his remarks by acknowledging that virtual learning is not an easy way to for students to start their college journey at GW. He said that even though there are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the future, he remains optimistic. He said that the pandemic, even though it has dramatically changed the world, cannot diminish the value of higher education as a long-term investment in a better future.
“Your generation's call is to address the many inequities we are witnessing across the country,
from racial and economic injustice to police reform and climate change,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “And you, the students who are coming to this university in this class in this challenging time, are the most committed to gaining the knowledge and tools you will need to drive that change.”
Student Association President Howard Brookins III, a senior studying public policy and economics in the School of Business, said that he and the Student Association will be there to support student advocacy endeavors throughout students’ time at GW.
“We are working very hard to make sure that GW is everything that you imagined,” said Mr. Brookins, who took time to welcome students from his hometown of Chicago. “We've pushed GW to be the best version of itself, and I won't let you down.”
In past years, first-year students participated in community service projects immediately after Convocation. This year, hundreds of students engaged in virtual community service projects on Saturday such as reading books on video for pre-school children, talking with military veterans and seniors, and assisting in archival research through the Smithsonian Transcription Project and the National Archives Citizen Archivist Project. There is also a Humanitarian OpenStreetMap project on Aug. 31, and virtual workshops will begin on Sept. 12.
Virtual convocation maintained the tradition of school deans welcoming the new students to GW, including Dean Paul Wahlbeck of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Dean John Lach of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Dean Anuj Mehrotra of GWSB, interim Dean Ilana Feldman of the Elliott School of International Affairs and Dean Lynn Goldman of the Milken Institute School of Public Health. A number of student leaders also welcomed the class of 2024 during the virtual ceremony, offering advice and well wishes for their college journey.
This ceremony was the first for Dr. Blake as GW’s provost, and he said he was also disappointed that he could not share in this moment in person. While the world is still uncertain, Dr. Blake said, students can be certain that their time at GW will allow them to follow their passions and become scholars and leaders that will help guide the world.
It also will be a time to guide each other, he said, as students will need to build relationships during the virtual learning period while supporting colleagues and classmates.
“You're all adjusting to a new phase of your life under very uncertain circumstances,” Dr. Blake said. “The bonds you make now with your colleagues will only strengthen when you're finally back on campus.
“These bonds will last a lifetime,” he said. “The connections made during this history changing moment—do not let them pass.”