Interim University President Mark Wrighton officially welcomed the Class of 2026 at the University’s Convocation ceremony at the Smith Center Saturday, Aug. 27.
More than 1,000 freshmen gathered at the event, where Wrighton, Provost Chris Bracey, nine of GW’s deans and student speaker senior Rubin Roy addressed the class. Their speeches offered advice to incoming freshmen and welcomed them to GW, marking the completion of New Student Orientation and the start of their college careers at the University.
Wrighton urged students to take advantage of “only at GW” opportunities – like discussions with world leaders, scientists and artists – as the University begins its third century. He said GW’s status as a research university allows students to access unique “resources, connections and support” that he hopes all freshmen utilize.
“You should take advantage of the opportunity to be involved in knowledge creation that will help to make the world a better place,” he said. “I hope you will view the failures as chances to grow to become more resilient.”
Some freshmen coming to campus this year will move into newly refurbished Thurston Hall, which now features new community spaces, remodeled rooms and a dining hall that will open later in the fall after the residence hall underwent a two-year renovation.
Wrighton encouraged students to take advice from GW’s new summer reading book “The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward,” which he said should teach them to avoid comparing themselves to their peers and use personal goals as motivation for success in college. He said author Daniel Pink’s presentation at the Smith Center Wednesday offered students a chance to discuss the book’s content and apply its message to their future years at GW.
“I, myself, am quite experienced with orientation programs at premier universities like GW,” Wrighton said. “This presentation was one of the very best, and I believe, the very best I’ve ever heard.”
Wrighton urged students to collaborate with the GW community during the next four years to advocate for topics that are important to them, like racial justice, climate change or division on national issues. He encouraged students to embrace their differences and “listen and learn” from their peers and professors.
“George Washington University strives to be an inclusive community every day,” Wrighton said. “We embrace others for who they are and invite them into our lives. We condemn all forms of hatred, and work to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.”
Blake Clark, an adjunct professor of music and director of choral activities, led attendees in vocal warmups and a three-part harmony in preparation to lead the new class in a performance of the alma mater and the GW fight song.
After Convocation, the Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service hosted GW’s annual Welcome Day of Service where students volunteer at organizations around D.C., like the Armed Forces Retirement Home, peace education non-profit Little Friends for Peace and Brookland Middle School. Before buses transported students to their service sites, Nashman Center staff presented a video after the ceremony with information on the service venture and how to get involved with volunteer opportunities on campus.
“My expectation is that the GW community will always show respect for one another, even though we may disagree from time to time,” Wrighton said.