Written by Kevin Manuel | 08 September 2011
Along with the beginning of the 2011-2012 Academic Year comes the traditions and nuances of University life. One such tradition is weekly Convocation, the one campus event that hopes to bring together every student, faculty, and staff member for a spiritual moment of inspiration, remembrance, and prayer. The Opening Convocation of the academic year was held on August 31, 2011 and the hall was filled with perhaps more members of the WAU family than ever before.
Music Department Chair, Dr. James Bingham (pictured left), performed along with Music Senior, Ms. Shanti Seidel (pictured left), the Organ Prelude and Processional, which consisted of All My Hope on God is Founded by Michael Burkhardt, and Trumpet Tune by Jean Joseph Mouret respectively.
Vice-President of Campus Ministries, Baraka Muganda (pictured right), led the congregation in an Invocation of thanks for rest received during the summer and the opportunities that lay present in the coming year. He prayed especially for the students for guidance during their academic and spiritual lives.
After the Opening Hymn, Dr. Susan Hornshaw (pictured left) took the stage to welcome everyone to the convocation as well as to the academic year. She spoke of her understanding of redemption and salvation as a calling to live a life of forgiveness and understanding.
She also reminded the congregation to remember God in the good times as well as the bad,”When things are difficult, go to God and come to chapel, when things are good, go to God and come to chapel.”
She concluded by revealing that due to working in the public system during much of her professional life, she was unable to integrate spiritual precepts in her addresses and the fact that she can now, warms her heart.
Time was given to the new Student Association President, Alcira Groomes (pictured below), to speak. She introduced the new SA team and thanked sponsor and Dean of Women, Adrienne Matthews as well as University President, Dr. Weymouth Spence.
Ms. Groomes began her talk with one of her favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11. She said it struck a chord with her because, “It talks about God having a specific plan for us, to prosper us, to give us a future, and a hope.”
She believes that we all share a common goal despite our differences, which is for “our school to improve and become better each year, for our buildings and living conditions to get better, for activities to improve and the morale of our school to get stronger.”
She made it known that she is intent on taking the level of school spirit to new heights, to the point where students can say confidently, “This is MY school.” Her speech was a calling for students to get involved in any way possible to improve the University and by doing so, excel in innumerable ways.
Ellie Barker, Admissions Counselor, read the Scripture Reading, Romans 12:2,3, after which the Musical Selection, Sonata in G minor for Piano and Cello, Allegro’s Cello part was performed Ms. Seidel. She was accompanied by world-renowned pianist and Assistant Professor of Music at WAU, Daniel Lau.
University President, Dr. Weymouth Spence (pictured left) delivered an address entitled, The Race. He welcomed the students, faculty, staff, and all who were present to the opening convocation before delivering a state of the institution address. He also highlighted the achievements the University had witnessed,”The Lord is continuing to bless WAU. Our financial position is stronger, there is enrollment growth, we have updated the residence hall furniture, we are building a brand new Music Building, and this fall we will roll out, plans for a new Fitness and Wellness Center.”
It wasn’t a surprise that applause began with the mention of new residence hall furniture and crescendoed with the promise of a new Fitness and Wellness Center. It tied in with the mission that Dr. Spence has promoted throughout his time as WAU President, the mission to, “engage minds and transform lives.”
“I am committed to working with the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, and our community partners to build an exceptional academic institution. To produce graduates who bring competence and moral leadership to their communities.”
President Spence then presented a letter written to him by a freshman who was involved in the Bridge program. The student related how reading the mission on the University website had sparked his ambition to study at WAU. He enrolled in the Bridge Program, and was pleased with his work and the opportunity to better himself. Even when the odds seemed insurmountable, the student persevered through mind-bending assignments and failed tests. This was perhaps the greatest lesson he learned in his short time at WAU in addition to conquering his fear of public speaking and face-to-face communication. Despite these trying circumstances, the student still had the hope and confidence that he would not only graduate, but do so with honors.
Dr. Spence presented this story as an example of the changes that WAU can effect in young minds, “Engaging minds and transforming lives is what we do here at Washington Adventist University,”
He addressed the challenge of education and success among minority groups and stated that change was needed to effectively meet these challenges, “There is no easy button to press to solve the problems facing today’s young adult, and specifically, men of color, overnight. The challenge will be to create and sustain policies, programs in an environment of diminishing resources. This will require us to come up with creative ways to address college completion, for many minority students that are both effective and efficient. The question is not whether we can afford to make the necessary changes; we must ask whether we can afford to not make closing the achievement gap a priority, especially among young men of color.”
Dr. Spence then referred to US President, Barack Obama’s pledge to ensure that by 2020, America would once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. He revealed that in order to contribute to this plan; several factors must be considered. These include collaboration with K-12 for academic excellence, implementing student retention strategies that are effective, implementing early learning assessment and diagnosis; careful, deliberate and consistent academic and career advising, engagement of students in the learning process, placing priority on learning outcomes, and encouraging parents to write letters to their children.
His talk also included encouragement for the students and he invited them to be perseverant and to be winners. He concluded by reminding the students that in life, the race is “not for the swift, but for those who endure to the end.”
Chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages, Dr. Susan Comilang led the congregation through the Responsive Reading, the 121st Psalm, entitled God the Help of Those Who Seek Him.
Pastor Rob Vandeman (pictured left), Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees and Secretary of the Columbia Union Conference, then rose to offer the Prayer of Dedication. He prayed for spiritual help for the University and to bless its students, faculty, and staff and lead them in the right direction for this academic year and beyond.
The final offering of the program saw Ramone Griffith, a Theology and Music Senior and tenor, sing The Lords Prayer by Albert Malotte.
The congregation returned to their duties while the Postlude, March by Flor Peters, was performed.