When Carmen Lugo-Lugo addresses students at next month’s University Convocation, she will tell students about receiving her degree from the University of Puerto Rico and facing a future filled with questions.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Lugo-Lugo says of her post-graduation plans. “I want to help students understand that I know for many of them, being here is scary. But the process of going through college and gaining knowledge is going to allow them to understand what they want to do, and more importantly, who they want to be as a person.”
Lugo-Lugo is honored to tell her story at the official kickoff to the academic year on Friday, August 17. Convocation is designed to formally welcome first-year students, faculty, and parents to WSU.
“There is definitely a ceremonial aspect to it, but we want to make it more accessible for students,” says Sara Van Steenbergen, who heads the Convocation committee. “We’re trying to examine the traditional practices and tailor them to our students. Faculty arrive in regalia and new students are not necessarily cognizant of what that means. We want to make it matter to them as they’re coming in, connect them to the history of higher education, while also humanizing the people wearing those robes.”
Van Steenbergen says the hour-long program will include short videos designed to educate and inspire. The video screen displays will ask WSU trivia questions and include other elements to help students understand the ceremonial aspects of Convocation. Faculty are encouraged to RSVP to attend convocation and wear regalia, which can be rented at no cost.
Lugo-Lugo’s own dilemma after graduating from college led her to WSU, where she earned her masters, a PhD, and a position as professor of ethnic studies.
“The message is, ‘It’s OK to not know what you want to do,’” Lugo-Lugo says. “That will open your mind to exploring. Slow down, explore options and enjoy the process.”
Last year, about 2,800 first-year students filed into Beasley Coliseum for Convocation. Faculty play a crucial role in helping students feel welcome and in easing the anxiety that arises as the semester begins. Convocation is one venue in which professors can offer a friendly face.
“The more Convocation can serve as a holistic, welcoming experience, the more community resonance it has,” Van Steenbergen says. “The WSU community is here for the students and we absolutely want faculty to feel like they’re an important part of it, because they’re integral to that welcoming process.”