2011 Convocation initiates freshman class and transfer students

Convocation is the annual ceremony that welcomes all freshmen and transfer students to UC Santa Barbara. The first of many rites of passage for UCSB students, it is celebrated with appropriate pomp and circumstance -- faculty in academic regalia and the ringing of the Storke Tower carillion –but is also has an informal tone, with students dressed casually, seated on folding chairs or on the grass. On September 19th , the 4,000 freshmen members of the class of 2015 and the 1,500 transfer students joining the class of 2013 assembled to begin their UCSB careers.



Pomp & Circumstance: the College's leaders. From left to right, Pierre Wiltzius, Dean of Science, David Marshall, Executive Dean and Dean of Humanities & Fine Arts, Melvin Oliver, Dean of Social Sciences, and Mary Nisbet, Dean of Undergraduate Education.

Defining “convocation” as a “calling together”, David Marshall, Executive Dean of the College of Letters and Science, told the students that “college is meant to be a perpetual convocation. We call you together today to begin an ongoing conversation. We call upon you to join the acts of inquiry, research, production, and creation in which we are engaged, to be collaborators in the work of the university.” He stressed that when choosing courses and majors, students should expand their horizons and develop their skills in critical thinking, empirical reasoning, and communication, all of which would help to prepare them for jobs that might not even exist today.

Chancellor Henry Yang told the students that they are a highly select group joining a major research university, a theme echoed by Associated Students President Harrison Weber, who said that many of the incoming undergraduates had fought hard to get here, but many more had been unable to gain admission to the university. New students should make the most of their UCSB experience ? academically, socially, performing community service, or through campus activism. “The clock starts ticking today,” Weber said, “and the experience starts now. Find your passion and then choose an academic path to help you realize it.”




John Park, Professor of Asian American Studies and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education, giving the keynote speech.

The keynote address, by John Park, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education and Professor of Asian American Studies in the College of Letters and Science, hit similar notes. Park spoke of his own college experience as humbling and at times difficult. He told the students that they could face academic difficulties, or might take an academic path different than the one they envisioned today. Therefore, rather than choosing a specific major, Park suggested choosing a problem and finding the best way to solve it. Someone interested in fighting malaria, for example, could pursue a degree in microbiology or try for medical school to find a cure for the disease. But that might not be possible, maybe because the student has a problem passing organic chemistry. Instead of giving up, the student could become a public health educator, or work for a non-profit distributing bed nets, or become a journalist writing about the problems caused by malaria. “So you can be sad that medical school might not be in your future, but think again about [the] the problem,” he said. “You must not give up. … If you struggle here, if you persist here, if you can remain focused here, you will get a most wonderful education.”

Selected from more than 49,000 freshmen and 14,000 transfer applicants, the new students – 90% of whom are enrolled in the College of Letters and Science – come from diverse backgrounds and have a range of interests as wide as the 80 majors and 38 minors offered by the College. Some 41% are the first members of their families to attend college. Close to two-thirds have declared a major, with more than half having selected a subject in the sciences, but this will change as the students are exposed to different classes and majors. A small number – 210 – have been admitted to the College Honors Program, based on their outstanding academic records, but more can become eligible after their first year if they meet the program’s criteria. Some 360 students participated in the Freshman Summer Start Program (FSSP), which gave them the opportunity to take summer session classes and get a jump start on their college experience.


Over the summer, a very small group of students, contacted at random, agreed to talk about their reasons for choosing UCSB. If the members of this group are indicative of their larger class, then they may have found their passion already and are making a good start toward a “most wonderful education.”

  • Robert Luttrell, from San Diego, chose UCSB because of its reputation in physics, his admission into the College Honors Program, and the beautiful location. A participant in FSSP, he has chosen to major in physics because “I want to research the universe and possibly discover the properties of unknown matter in the ever expanding universe.”

  • Anna Bontrager, from Santa Cruz, chose UCSB for its academic reputation, her admission to the Honors Program, and the location near the ocean. She has chosen to major in Environmental Studies “because I am very interested in how humans can change their behavior and lifestyles in order to not only stop damaging the environment, but also to reverse the damage that has already been done.”

  • Jasper Brezsny-Feldman, from Eugene, Oregon, has come to UCSB because of its many research possibilities and its “incredible study-abroad program.” She “liked that UCSB is a highly academic school, but balances an active social reputation. And although UCSB always gets high rankings in academics, it does not have the snooty attitude of an ivy league school. Also the location is practically perfect.” She initially declared an environmental studies major but has already changed to communication because it offers many varied career opportunities, possibly in marketing and media.

  • Haley Rae Davis, from San Francisco, chose UCSB over UC Berkeley and UC Davis after visiting the campus during Spring Insight and being accepted into the Honors Program, which was a major factor in her decision. She has declared English as her major “because I've always had a passion for it. My English teacher in high school was amazing, and he instilled a real desire in me to continue my studies in literature.”

  • Nicole Pedregon, from Southern California, took part in FSSP and plans to major in anthropology, “because I’ve always wanted to learn about different cultures and how societies are formed.” She chose UCSB because of its strong anthropology department, its location, and because “this university has better academic programs and research opportunities than both of the private schools I was considering at a fraction of the cost.”

  • Ivan Deryugin, from San Diego, admits frankly that UCSB was not his first choice, but it was the best school he was admitted to. An economics and accounting major who has been admitted to the Honors Program, he hopes to attend business school after college and have a career on Wall Street. He plans to be actively involved in campus organizations so that he can help make a difference both on campus and in the broader community.

  • Audrey De Los Reyes, from Long Beach, was valedictorian of a class of 65 from an all-girls, private, Catholic high school in Anaheim. She chose UCSB for its academic reputation, research and academic opportunities, and because she was admitted to the Honors Program. “When I stepped on the campus, I just knew,” she says. Currently undeclared, she is interested in biopsychology and may choose that major after completing some of her general education courses.

  • Alexandra Bowers, from San Jose, was accepted by every other UC but turned them down because UCSB was the best fit for her, with its “terrific marine biology program.” She fell in love with the campus “vibe” at Spring Insight, “a relaxed one that is still focused on academics and studies.” She has been admitted to the Honors Program, received a Regents Scholarship, and took part in FSSP. She is a pre-biology major and plans on declaring the field of aquatic biology during her third year.

    September, 2011

News Date: 

Thursday, September 1, 2011