Hundreds of new students received a warm Toro welcome on Friday, Aug. 26, at the university’s annual New Student Convocation. The afternoon featured a formal ceremony followed by an hour of carnival games and prizes, all meant to welcome incoming undergraduate and graduate scholars to the Toro family and celebrate the start of a mutually transformative collaboration between learners and educators.
DJ Juan Young energized the crowd of several hundred during pre-ceremony events with the help of Teddy Toro and the CSUDH Dance Team. Students swayed to songs from Cali Swag District and DJ Tunez before President Thomas A. Parham and his cabinet members danced their way to the stage to officially open the convocation.
Showcasing his charismatic Toro spirit, William Franklin, vice president for student affairs, introduced the university’s new strategic plan as CSUDH’s commitment to create a reciprocal learning environment that is socially just, equitable, and inclusive, where students and educators alike can thrive.
“When I was a freshman at Cal State Northridge, nobody could have told me what a strategic plan was. I didn’t know what it was. What did I want to know? I wanted to know if you cared about me,” Franklin said. “I wanted to know if you cared about my humanity, my culture, my race, my gender, my sexual orientation. I wanted to know if you cared about who I was. That’s in [our] plan.”
Parham then took to the podium and urged students to invite transformational experiences, to meet and learn from one another, and to accept every chance for personal growth and discovery.
“Embrace the opportunity to challenge bias and preconceived notions about others who are culturally different,” Parham said. “We have gyms to build muscles, yet haven’t learned how to love our way through the darkness of our adversities and appreciate the richness and diversity that we represent.”
Deborah Wallace, vice president of administration and finance, then welcomed alumnus Jonathan Head, an entrepreneur and member of the 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, to deliver this year’s keynote speech.
Head (BS, Business Administration ’10) spent more than a decade working in IT for the County of Los Angeles before joining the parent company of Snapchat as IT program manager last year. He urged incoming students to pay attention to all that they have already accomplished when they feel overwhelmed–as he did during his first year as a Toro.
“You have done special things already to get to this point today,” he said. “You have everything you need inside of you to make whatever you want to happen. You may not realize it, but now that you have made the choice to start here at CSUDH, you also have a community to support you.”
Michael Spagna, provost and vice president for academic affairs, concluded the ceremony by asking students to look beyond themselves and remember that the degrees they seek are important, but they represent the start of the journey, not the end.
“As you go through this experience, be kind to one another. Support one another. Everyone is here with a culture of care to make sure you’re successful. We want you to do what we all need to do, which is make this world a better place when you’re out in it.”