University President Steven Knapp urged freshmen to participate in public service and take advantage of GW’s extensive alumni network and accomplished faculty at Freshman Convocation Sunday afternoon in the Smith Center.
A majority of the more than 2,500 freshmen attended the event, which was followed by a barbecue in University yard.
“No matter what you study, no matter where you are on the spectrum of political theory, GW will offer you a front-row seat in the theatre of history,” Knapp said.
In his speech, Knapp touted sustainable initiatives – an issue he has focused on since he became University president two years ago.
Knapp also told stories of students who were able to participate in history on the night of President Obama’s election victory, and encouraged students to take advantage of their vantage point from their Foggy Bottom residence.
“This is an amazing place at a truly amazing time,” Knapp said.
Knapp’s speech was followed by remarks from Chris Diaz, a recent graduate of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, who spoke about his time at GW, and his experience as a gay member of the College Republicans in particular.
Diaz told students about an event the CRs organized that promoted traditional marriage, prompting him to come out of the closet.
The episode taught him to trust his instincts but still embrace peers with different points of view, he said, and he encouraged the freshmen students to do the same.
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman also addressed the students and encouraged them to use their college years to decide what they want to do with their lives, find interests they are passionate about, and constantly challenge themselves and make meaningful connections.
“Social networking doesn’t require a computer,” said Lehman. “You find yourself among a diverse group of faculty, staff and students.”
After the event, many students said they were excited to begin their GW careers.
“I visited 12 schools,” said Lindsay Plante, a freshman from Windham, Maine. “This was the only one I was excited about. It wasn’t just a grown-up high school. There seemed like there were a lot of opportunities.”
Jake Swirsky, a freshman from Westchester, N.Y., chose GW because “it seemed to have its own culture and wasn’t in the middle of nowhere.”
Others were attracted to the academics and location.
Justin Fink, a freshman from Medford, N.J., said he “wanted a school with music, environmental policy and business.” GW combined them all, he said.
“I’m a political science major,” said Tanyell Cooke, a freshman from the Bronx. “So this is the microcosm of what I am studying.”