Skip to main content

Chancellor’s Convocation to welcome students, encourage service

August 25, 2014 By Preston Schmitt

Photo: Students raising hands and singing "Varsity" in Kohl Center

First-year students link arms and sing “Varsity” at the end of the Chancellor’s Convocation for new students in 2013. This year’s event will be Friday, Aug. 29, at the Kohl Center and will focus on the theme of service.


UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank will mark the beginning of a new academic year with the Chancellor’s Convocation, an annual welcome to incoming freshmen and transfer students.

The event will be held Friday, Aug. 29, at the Kohl Center from 10:30 a.m. to noon and will highlight a theme fundamental to the university: service.

As in past years, Aaron Bird Bear, a student services coordinator at the School of Education, will host the event and narrate the history of the campus’s landscape, including its natural areas and relationship with American Indian history. John Booske, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and department chair, will speak on behalf of faculty.

Photo: Chancellor Blank at podium photographing audience with a smart phone

On stage, Chancellor Rebecca Blank pauses to photograph the thousands of first-year students at last year’s convocation.

Blank will officially welcome the new students, as well as emphasize the importance of service, involvement and “finding a niche” on campus. While the UW’s large campus provides myriad opportunities for students, its size can also be intimidating — and Blank will share advice on how to avoid getting lost in the crowd.

Last year’s convocation launched a year of “firsts” at the UW for Blank, and the same will be true this year for Sarah Mangelsdorf, the new provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. Convocation will serve as Mangelsdorf’s first major public event on campus, and she will be recognized on stage.

The keynote speaker will be student Jacqui Geringer, whom the Center for the First-Year Experience selected from a pool of current juniors and seniors. Prospective speakers were asked to answer two essay questions related to the theme of service: “How has service or volunteering influenced your Wisconsin Experience? Relating to your own life, what advice would you give to incoming students about shaping their own Wisconsin Experience?”

While the UW’s large campus provides myriad opportunities for students, its size can also be intimidating — and Blank will share advice on how to avoid getting lost in the crowd.

Geringer — whose major, community and nonprofit leadership, fits seamlessly with the theme — discovered a calling for service when she left school for a year in 2012 to work.

“My year off from college instilled in me an appreciation for my education, as well as a true realization of my privilege in society,” says Geringer, who plans to graduate in December. “We all have phases of ‘living in our own worlds’ at some time or another, but we also all inherently possess the power to create impact. Participating in something greater than yourself, in turn, makes you greater.”

In her essay, Geringer noted the wide spectrum of service opportunities that are available to students on campus. After returning to school, she joined the UW Telefund, which raised more than $2 million for the university in 2013, and began volunteering with the Wisconsin Alumni Association.

Photo: Cover of book "I am Malala"

Copies of the book “I am Malala,” this year’s Go Big Read selection, will be distributed.

“The greatest advice I can give incoming Badgers is to be ‘present’ by acting with integrity and conviction in everything they do,” Geringer says, “whether they are acknowledged for their efforts or not.”

The a cappella group Redefined and the Wisconsin Trumpet Ensemble will provide music for the event. As is tradition, students will head to the exits after their inaugural rendition of “Varsity” and receive a free copy of “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban,” this year’s Go Big Read selection and a fitting conclusion to an event emphasizing service. The memoir documents the transformative experiences of 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an education activist from Pakistan.

“Her story,” Blank said in May, “will lead our students to reflect on the opportunities they have to use their own voice in the world.”