California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) alumna and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Carmelita Jeter helped the university welcome the incoming Class of 2015 at the second annual Freshman Convocation on Sept. 21.
Jeter, President Willie J. Hagan and the university’s top leaders marched in the StubHub Center tennis stadium—where CSUDH commencement ceremonies takes place—in full regalia, so the future Class of 2019 could visualize what graduation would be like. The approximately 1,000 freshmen in attendance were given a pep talk from each of the speakers that was filled with such sound advice as the importance of academic flexibility, and the willingness to not “go it alone.”
Jeter (2006, B.A., kinesiology), a three-time Olympic medalist,” was the keynote speaker during the convocation and continues to be an active supporter of CSUDH.
“Cal State Dominquez Hills ended up being exactly where I needed to be—running track, and being coached by a great man, Warren Edmonson [head coach of CSUDH’s track and field team], who’s philosophy was ‘You better graduate.’ He stressed graduation more than he stressed running track,” said Jeter. “I hope that’s the same mindset you all will also have—to graduate. That’s the most important thing for you right now.
“It’s okay if you change your major. It’s okay if you say this is not what I want to do because you want to make sure you graduate in something that you love,” Jeter added. “When I went here my adviser became my best friend. I was standing outside her office all the time. She would advise me on my classes and make sure I was on track.”
Before Jeter spoke, a short video that featured clips from her 2009 100m race at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, where she set a personal best with a time of 10.64 to earn the title “Fastest Woman Alive,” and the 4×100 race at the 2012 Olympic, in which she earned gold, were played for the audience. The piece was one of four videos played on a big screen between a few of the platform party’s remarks. The other three clips offered “10 Toro Tips for the Class of 2019” from their fellow students and faculty members.
During President Hagan’s remarks, he emphasized the need for freshmen to have perseverance, to continue to work hard during times of struggle when they may begin to question their abilities, and he reinforced the students’ need to seek out help from faculty and other mentors on campus. He also let the students know why Freshman Convocation was designed to reflect a CSUDH commencement ceremony.
“This tennis stadium is where we hold our graduation ceremonies. We brought you here because research shows that if you can visualize a desired income, you have a chance of achieving that outcome. So we thought it would be a good idea to bring you here as freshman to help you visualize sitting down here a few years from now getting your degrees,” said Hagan. “Visualize those people in the stands as being your family and your friends sharing in your success. Visualize me standing on stage, shaking your hand and awarding you a degree. You need to believe this will happen for you, and to commit yourself to the hard work and sacrifice needed to make this happen.”
William Franklin, CSUDH’s vice president for Student Affairs who emceed the convocation, focused on the importance of tapping the university’s student resources and other opportunities during the beginning of his remarks.
“Your new university has countless ways for you to develop, grow, and sharpen your skills so that you are strong candidates for any endeavor you choose to pursue after you earn your degrees,” said Franklin. “During your time at CSUDH, you will have the opportunity to engage with professors, peers, and staff members, as well as participate in internships, work experience, and research opportunities. You can become leaders on campus and in your fields, and so much more. Your potential as a Toro is unlimited. But it is up to you to write your own story.”
Freshman Renee Martinez looks forward to taking advantage of many of the opportunities Franklin mentioned. She is currently considering either nursing or criminal justice as her major.
“This is such an awesome school. The vibe here is great, the people here are amazing, and the professors are really good. It’s my type of school,” said Martinez, an Indio resident who attended Indio High School. “Two of my cousins have already gone here and they told me the education is wonderful. And what we are doing here today is wonderful. I’m enjoying the whole thing. I’m happy to be here, and happy to be a Toro.”
Ellen Junn, CSUDH provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, shared some of her own experiences from when she was a college student. She also suggested three things freshmen should often think about during the time at the university.
“Expect the unexpected and don’t let it throw you off course. It’s completely normal to have unexpected changes during your freshman year and throughout your college career,” said Junn. “Know that you belong here, and that we believe in you. Remember your professors do care about you and you will need to seek them out when you need help. And finally, think of your brain as a muscle that is not yet in top shape. High school certainly did help to exercise your brain, but now in college you’re going to have to work your brain out even more.”
Jordan Sylvester, president of Associated Students, Inc., shared with the students a few milestones in CSUDH history, including the university’s move to Carson as a result of the Watts Rebellion, as well as words of encouragement from a current student’s perspective.
“In order for anything to work you must be willing to put work into it. So today, I would like to ask everyone here to commit themselves,” said Sylvester. “You must first commit yourselves to the university, like a place of business, and as your home. Only then will you see how the university truly works in your favor.
“We are grateful to welcome the Toro Class of 2019 to our family, to our community and alongside our journey,” said Sylvester to conclude his remarks. “The torch will soon be passed to you, so know that you have a family of Toros—past and present— to call on during your journey. And know that once a Toro, you will always be a Toro.”
After the ceremony, a festival took place in the adjacent parking, which included an “Academic Showcase” to provide the freshmen the opportunity to connect face-to-face with faculty and advisers in their majors, or to start to plot their potential majors. The festivities also included a live band, free food, activities and raffles.