Faculty welcomes students

New year begins with convocation

President Chris Kimball welcomes freshmen and transfer students during the opening academic convocation this morning.

Photo: Troy Harvey, Ventura County Star

Faculty members and administrators gathered today for convocation at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks and formally welcomed new students at the start of the academic year.

Freshmen and transfer students were greeted with applause from faculty members in full academic attire as the students entered Gilbert Arena in procession shortly before 10 a.m.

"It's kind of a surprise," said Ryan Zapata, 18, a biology major from Simi Valley. "It's a big entrance and kind of a nice little welcome into the room."

Student Alexis Newberry, 18, of Camarillo, said as she walked to her seat: "It feels so good. Everyone's really connected, and I already love it here. I've met a ton of great people, just great human beings, and I am so happy to be here."

CLU President Chris Kimball told the students the applause was "an expression of our delight to have you here."

"In four years, or shorter for those of you who are transfer, the faculty ... applaud you again, but this time for what you have accomplished as students here — applause that is recognition of achievement," he said.

Kimball then invited the students to give the faculty members a round of applause.

Also during the convocation, 13 new CLU faculty members were presented and 12 faculty members who have received tenure or advanced in rank were recognized.

More than 830 freshmen and transfer students have enrolled at the private university for 2012-13. Orientation for new students began Saturday and concluded this afternoon with a service project in Ventura. Classes begin Wednesday.

"This school is awesome," said Taylor McMaster, 19, from Newberg, Ore. "I went to a lot of colleges, and when I came to CLU, it was just a great experience.

"Everybody's been really nice here and welcoming," said McMaster, who plans to achieve a double major in psychology and business.

In her invocation, campus pastor Rev. Melissa Maxwell-Doherty asked for God's blessing on the incoming students, calling for them to receive gifts of diligence and openness.

"May this year be seasoned with new challenges and growth as we seek insight and wisdom through inquiry and study. May our common life together persuade us to become a community of compassion and care, especially for the least among us," she said.

The keynote address was given by Marylie Gerson, associate professor of psychology.

Gerson, selected last spring as the recipient of the 2012 President's Award for Teaching Excellence, spoke about how students could discover who they are and what they might do with their lives.

"You will have many opportunities to clarify who it is that you are and the paths you'd like in life to take," Gerson said.

"You'll be asked to be an active thinker here, debating topics and critically evaluating issues," she said "But I believe this also is an important time for you to allow your self to develop through firsthand experience ... taking you ever closer to knowing what it is that you love to do so that you can build a life where you can do what you love."

--- Published in the Ventura County Star on Sept. 5, 2012