DU Welcomes New Students to ‘Historic’ Term
Their bags barely unpacked and their backpacks stuffed with laptops and masks, more than 1,400 first-year students and 180 transfer students began a fall quarter unlike any other with a Discoveries Orientation unlike any other. On Sept. 11, first-year students capped their first week at the University of Denver with a virtual convocation, where campus leaders delivered welcome messages via YouTube.
“This quarter looks different than we hoped or expected,” Chancellor Jeremy Haefner told the Class of 2024. “But you are now part of a long history of fortitude, perseverance, reinvention, growth and renewal. I hope you will find that as empowering as I do.”
From its earliest days, Haefner said, DU has never shirked from a challenge, whether a devastating flood in 1864, meeting the country’s needs during World War II or a financial crisis in the 1980s. “In fact,” he said, “we have always used challenge as opportunities. That fortitude and our commitment to serving the public good are baked into our institutional character.”
DU’s newest students are joining the campus community at a historic time, said Provost Mary Clark. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equality, the convocation ceremony focused on watershed moments in history.
Tom Romero (BA ’95), interim vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion, and a professor in the Sturm College of Law, discussed DU’s ties to the Sand Creek Massacre and Denver’s struggles with segregated busing. Clark, meanwhile, focused her address on the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted white American women the right to vote.
“The women’s suffrage movement demonstrated the power of persistence, courage and passion in pursuit of a vision of justice,” Clark said, noting that the quest for the vote occurred during a global pandemic. “I highlight this history by way of encouraging those of you who are engaged in movements for racial justice, environmental justice and human rights more broadly, that the power of concerted action, undertaken with courage and conviction, cannot be quelled and will make this world a better place.”
The Class of 2024 represents 48 different states and 29 countries. Seventy-one percent are from out of state and two-thirds are 500 miles or more away from home. More than a quarter identify as an ethnic minority other than white, and 16% will be the first in their family to graduate from college.
In closing, Haefner told students to keep three traits in their back pocket as they weather uncertain times: resilience, responsibility and respect.
“Part of college is about testing assumptions and convictions, maybe making them stronger, or maybe making them more relevant. You and your character will be put to the test as you embark on this new experience,” Haefner said. “You are not arriving at DU today as a blank slate or an empty vessel only to receive. You are arriving here with something to give. You bring with you a unique set of skills, backgrounds and perspectives. You bring with you your passions and creativity, your sense of innovation and entrepreneurship, boundless potential, insight, talents, ideas and ambitions.”