August 26, 2012 2:00 PM
One moment they are squinting in the delirious sunshine, in the next they move through the doors of McAlister Auditorium and into the coolness of its lobby. Some of these first-year students whoop and holler as they receive their T-shirts and programs. It’s not the official start of the 2012 President’s Convocation Ceremony on Saturday (Aug. 25), but this is how it begins.
Across campus, the admission office is reporting that there are 1,730 new undergraduates enrolled. Most of them are now squeezing into McAlister for their first shared moment.Another five minutes pass and the place is packed and rocking with conversation, which is remarkable considering hardly anyone knows anyone else.
On average, each is about 920 miles from his or her hometown, although the largest group — 213 — is from Louisiana. Nearly 200 hail from New York, another 176 are here from California. And each state in between is represented.
Still, the students eagerly twist and turn in their seats, each time finding someone new to talk to.Then lights dim, and Dr. Michael White’s Original Liberty Jazz Band proceeds down the middle aisle, playing “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” slowly and stoically, one long and legato note after another.
"Though we celebrate this special day as a beginning, the truth is, you have already started your journey," Cowen tells the new students. "In your years here, you will become Tulanians and New Orleanians, with the talent, determination and integrity to change the world. Our world needs you.
"At a time when the American dream has dimmed for many, particularly in our inner cities, you will be on be on the front lines — now and in the future, lighting the way and helping the doors of opportunity swing open."
Later, they are officially inducted into the student body and they learn how to sing the alma mater.Then they are turned loose into the bright August afternoon, where their families are waiting. Some whoop and holler again as they exit one world and enter another.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org