More than 5,000 first-year students were told to embrace “their weird,” expect to meet more than a few Sarahs and Matthews on campus, and make sure to close the books now and then — all during the 2015 Induction Ceremony in Jack Simpson Gym.
The annual event included a former astronaut and current mayor doling out a wide range of advice and encouragement, a little pomp and ceremony, and a whole lot of fun.
The University of Calgary Class of 2019, dressed in bright coloured T-shirts representing different faculties, chanted and cheered, led by enthusiastic orientation leaders wearing tutus, face paint and goofy hats. “They brought us all together and made it a nice comfortable experience,” says Haskayne student Ivan Kosivchenko, sitting in the front row in his blue T-shirt. “We feel closely knit together, with nothing to be nervous about.”
“I was expecting something calmer, not this hyped up,” says chemistry major Harkirg Chahal in yellow. “It’s very motivating, and you get into the university spirit.” Burgundy-clad arts student Melissa Levy, who just moved to campus from northern Alberta, agrees: “It’s really fun. I come from a small school and I didn’t expect this at all!”
Welcomed by the speakers
“We are so glad that you are at our university,” President Elizabeth Cannon told the students from the stage. “You will study with Canada’s finest professors and work beside some of Canada’s best innovators. Try new things, explore new ideas and learn as we challenge you.”
“Don’t be shy, get engaged, get involved,” advised Mayor and alumnus Naheed Nenshi, a former president of the Students’ Union. “Share your weirdness with the rest of the world,” advised the current SU president, Levi Nilson. A fourth-year arts student, Leah Schmidt, suggested making time on campus an experience, not just an education: “Keep your minds open, your hearts open, but don’t keep your books open all the time.”
Author suggests volunteering
“You look like a bunch of M+M’s sitting out there,” joked author Conor Grennan, before telling the brightly clad students: “Volunteering changes your heart. The only thing that matters is that you do it.” He admitted that his work against human trafficking started by trying to “impress a girl” with volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal. Grennan’s memoir, Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Children of Nepal, is this year’s Common Reading Program selection.
Plenty of Sarahs and Matthews
This year’s first-year students come from 10 provinces and two territories. Most students from outside Alberta are from B.C. although enrolment from P.E.I. doubled this year, to two students. There are also two students from Newfoundland and Labrador. But there are way more than two Sarahs and Matthews on campus: they are the most common first names of first-year students. The most common surname is Wang. The oldest first-year student is 80 and the youngest is 16.
Regardless of age, name or faculty, the chancellor, former astronaut Robert Thirsk, closed the ceremony with counsel for all students: Get to know your classmates, “shoot the breeze” with your professors, and look out for each other.
“Take a look around at the end of class and see who is looking perplexed and invite them out for a coffee,” Thirsk advised. “University is a team sport. We all thrive together.”