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New Beginning

person sitting in all black holding purple flowers

Students celebrate the star of university life through the tradition of convocation

by Juanita Galvis (Honors '25)

Each year, the month of August brings with it the start of a new academic year. The energy is palpable as some students return to campus while others arrive for the first time. Orientation events keep students busy, onboarding them to the year ahead and providing opportunities to connect with one another. Each year, first-year students participate in a special tradition that welcomes them to the start of their academic journey: convocation. 

Convocation is a tradition that has taken place on Westminster’s campus for many decades. As first-year students make their way to Richer Commons for the ceremony, the sound of bagpipes and the smell of lavender flowers fill the air. Banners wave as staff join Westminster faculty dressed in traditional regalia to applaud the arrival of the newest entering class. 

The air is electric with curiosity and nervous excitement. It’s a moment not soon forgotten: the young adults constituting the first-year class officially become university students.  

“Convocation is the beginning of academic life that marks students’ entry into a community of scholars. During convocation, students learn about the culture and importance of learning at Westminster,” says President Bethami Dobkin. “Faculty and staff join in convocation exercises to show their investment in students’ journeys of discovery.”

At convocation, new students have an opportunity to be heard and supported by the larger Westminster community. 

First-year student Grace Rentz (’27) vividly remembers the mixed emotions she felt before the 2023 convocation ceremony. Grace had joined the Westminster community after graduating from a small high school, and she was worried about feeling lost. Participating in the ceremony, hearing from faculty, and seeing other students in the same place reassured her. 

“We gathered by the residence halls and walked over the bridge. It was kind of like crossing into your new life,” Grace says. “The bell rang three times, and it felt like we were officially university students.”

Speakers during the 2023 convocation included President Dobkin, Provost Debbie Tahmassebi, Professor Julia Kamenetzky, and Student Body President Leah Stevenson.

“For me, it is always an energizing time,” Provost Tahmassebi says. “Students have the opportunity to meet our tremendously talented faculty who are deeply committed to their learning and success. What will become the story of their experience at Westminster is in front of them, and this event pushes them off to get it all started.” 



About the Westminster Review

The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.