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‘The Wisconsin Experience’ begins for thousands of new Badgers at 2022 Convocation

September 6, 2022 By Doug Erickson

The University of Wisconsin–Madison welcomed thousands of first-year students to campus Tuesday, with Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin noting that she and the incoming Badgers share something in common.

“You are all going to be a very special class to me because we’re starting here together,” she told the audience at New Student Convocation. Mnookin, the university’s 30th leader, began Aug. 4.

Convocation is UW–Madison’s formal welcome ceremony for all new freshmen and transfer students. For thousands of incoming students, the event at the Kohl Center is their entry into higher education and the beginning of their academic experience at UW–Madison.

Mnookin shared that this year’s freshman class is expected to be the largest in history at about 8,600 students — selected from a record-breaking pool of applicants of more than 60,000. More than 1,000 transfer students also are joining campus this fall.

Mnookin introduced the new students to the concept of “sifting and winnowing,” the university’s way to describe the scholarly inquiry that generates insights and discoveries and builds new knowledge.

“You’re going to explore many different issues and ideas across lots of different academic fields,” Mnookin said. “You’ll learn to think critically, argue persuasively, listen carefully, and produce substantive work that goes beyond the level of excellence you reached in the past. Because here at UW–Madison, we discuss everything — the ideas we strongly agree with and the ideas we strongly disagree with.”

Student speaker Marina Kerekes, a junior from Waterville, Minnesota, encouraged new students to shed their preconceived notions about what their college experience needs to be. She entered UW–Madison on a pre-law track but became fascinated with monkey research and switched to anthropology.

“Be open to redefining your ideas about what success and your future plans look like,” she said.

LaVar Charleston, the university’s chief diversity officer, urged students to remember — especially in moments of self-doubt — that they belong at UW–Madison. “Every single one of you is here because you deserve to be,” he said. “You’ve earned it. And each of you brings something unique and valuable to this diverse learning community.”

Lori Reesor, vice chancellor for student affairs, closed her remarks with a reminder to be kind.

“Things are still hard in our world,” Reesor told the students. “We need each of your real authentic selves here, and we need more kindness from everyone.”

Just prior to convocation, new students enjoyed a lunch provided by the Chancellor’s Office. Inside the Kohl Center, the UW Marching Band with director Corey Pompey warmed up the crowd. As they exited the Kohl Center, students received a free copy of the book selected for this year’s Go Big Read. Afterwards, they could enjoy Babcock ice cream at Alumni Park.

Incoming students expressed a range of emotions as they embarked on their Wisconsin Experience.

“I’m excited, but also a little intimidated by all the people,” said Ronald Kelley, of Charles Town, West Virginia, whose high school class had about 70 students. “This feels like a different country to me.”

He took his first-ever metro bus ride upon arriving in Madison and is learning euchre from a new friend in his residence hall.

Savanna Rostad, of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, said she’s looking forward to starting classes and diving into the work of being a college student.

“This past week, we’ve been sort of free in the world,” she said of traveling to Madison and getting acquainted with campus. “Now I’m eager to have structure in my life again.”