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Convocations planned for undergraduate, transfer students

August 27, 2009 By Susannah Brooks

Two keynote speeches with international flavor, along with Chancellor Biddy Martin, will welcome students to the University of Wisconsin–Madison at a pair of convocations for new students.

The first convocation — for new undergraduate students — will take place at noon on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at the Kohl Center. The second event, held for the first time specifically for transfer students, will take place at 3 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

As bookends to commencement, the convocations inaugurate students into the campus community as they begin their studies. A combined total of 4,000-5,000 new students are expected to attend.

Ariel La, the youngest daughter of Vietnamese refugees, will speak at the undergraduate event. She wrote an essay selected by Martin to answer the question “What would you tell a new student about life at the University of Wisconsin–Madison?”

La, a Maryland native, says that she told her parents, “I finally picked a major!” about six times during her first year before deciding on psychology and communication arts. Along the way, she got creative in and out of class by finding new ways to study and use the things around her.

She describes how her mother skipped a portion of Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) to explore Madison in search of good food, a rice cooker and two Cantonese “aunties” to help her daughter feel at home. Her mother will travel from Maryland to attend the event.

“I hope those in attendance walk away knowing that the new experience before them is an amazing adventure,” says La. “Falling in love with Madison and this university will be one of the greatest affairs of their life.”

Other speakers will include Martin, Dean of Students Lori Berquam and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

Transfer student Shaini Kothari, of Mumbai, India, will speak at UW–Madison’s first Transfer Student Convocation and Resource Fair. The event is designed specifically to welcome those students new to the university but experienced in many facets of college life.

As an international student, Kothari had the added challenge of learning about a new culture: the slang, the obsession with coffee, the roads and cars going in the opposite direction. After growing up in a tropical climate, she learned to love the snow (with the help of the campus bus, of course).

“I want students to know that it’s OK to feel overwhelmed and intimidated at first,” says Kothari. “Eventually, everyone in this huge university finds a niche of their own.”

Martin and Berquam will attend this event as well.

“After all of the official visits and paperwork, few things help people settle in better than advice from a fellow student,” says Wren Singer, director of the Center for the First-Year Experience, who, with her staff, helped judge the entries. “Ariel and Shaini both do a great job sharing the little things that personalized their experiences and helped them feel at home on campus.”

The Convocation Web site includes the text of both speeches, other speech-contest finalists and advice from faculty and staff about making the most out of the first year at UW–Madison.

Other undergraduate convocation essay finalists included UW–Madison students Becca Chimis, Jaime Bell, Hannah Karns and Steven Olikara.

UW-Madison students using Twitter are also encouraged to follow for live updates about the events.

The hashtag #uw2013 has been specifically set up for new student conversation and info.