In a typical year, CSUDH’s New Student Convocation is a chance for the university to welcome and greet its new freshmen and transfer students. At the convocation, new Toros begin to acclimate themselves to the campus, meet fellow students and faculty members, and generally get acquainted with what college life is all about. As we all know, though, 2020 has not been a typical year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s convocation took place virtually, as has almost all instruction and campus business since the lockdowns began in March. Faced with our current virtual reality, the CSUDH Alumni Association decided to use the unique situation to do something a little different to help new students connect to the university. They commissioned a series of short videos from a range of distinguished alumni, who offered their advice, support, and enthusiasm to the new Toros.
Among the alums who shared their stories was Major League Soccer star Gyasi Vardes (B.A., Criminal Justice, ’17), currently of the Columbus Crew, who advised students to get on top of their studies “from day one” on campus. Jonathan Henderson, who earned both a B.A. and M.A. in sociology from CSUDH, offered up a practical way of developing relationships with professors – taking directed reading or research courses that allow you to work on projects one-on-one with them.
Janae Oliver (B.A., Political Science, ’01) contributed a video advising new students to get involved on campus and get to know their professors, because that’s what helped her thrive at CSUDH. “I literally would not be the person I am today, had it not been for me getting involved on campus, knowing who my professors were, and taking advantage of the resources that are on that campus, says Oliver. “The collaborative spirit of the university really went a long way.”
Like all the alumni who contributed videos, Oliver was more than happy to help. “I remember all of the people, professors, and mentors I had,” she says. “They invested in me, so I think it’s really important that, if you are invested in, you also invest back into students who come behind you. I think it’s important to instill the little nuggets of wisdom that you get along the way.”
Many of the alumni stressed getting engaged with the campus community as one of the most important aspects of their university careers. Sherry McCaskill (Applied Studies, ’11) advised new students to “Get connected beyond the classroom! We have some really great tools and resources.” Kishore Ramlagan (B.S., Business Administration, ’14) shared that “networking will take you many places and open up opportunities for you.”
One thing that every alum agreed on was that new students should enjoy themselves while they’re in college – it goes by awfully fast. Ariana Stein (B.A., Business Administration, ’09) summed up the thoughts of many contributors with one simple, encouraging bit of advice: “Have fun, enjoy, and study!”