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A Calling Together of the Seahawk Community: UNCW Formally Welcomes Class of 2026

Monday, August 22, 2022

A lot has changed during UNCW’s nearly 75-year history – including its name – but the institution’s commitment to students has never wavered.

UNCW officially started the 2022-23 academic year by welcoming nearly 5,000 new students, including first-year, transfer and graduate students, many of whom trekked to Trask Coliseum for convocation on Aug. 22. The ceremony is one of many time-honored Seahawk traditions known as “UNCWelcome.”

James Winebrake, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, formally welcomed the Class of 2026 to the Seahawk community, which includes nearly 2,500 faculty and staff, 17,000 students and 100,000 alumni, on behalf of faculty, staff and administration.

“As provost, it is my job to ensure that the academic experience you have at UNCW is the best it can be. And your journey starts today,” he said. “Convocation represents the calling together of our community to celebrate your decision to attend UNCW and to express our commitment to you as new Seahawks.”

In his first convocation speech as chancellor, Dr. Aswani Volety told students that he shared in their feelings of excitement, happiness and nervousness, too. He joked he could mentally hear his daughters encouraging him “to get on with it.”

He took a moment to reflect on his journey as a first-generation college student who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in India before moving to the U.S. at 23.

“I have held a lot of jobs since then – faculty member, researcher, program director, department chair, dean, provost and now chancellor. If you will take some advice from a chancellor who just happens to be a dad, please embrace the opportunities available to you at UNCW. Find a mentor. Join a club or two. Sign up for a research project or an internship or a volunteer experience. Get involved in student government. Study abroad,” he said in his remarks.

Hannah-Valentina Horowitz '23, Student Government Association president, delivered greetings and participated in the unveiling of the Class of 2026 flag. She and Faculty Senate President Nathaniel P. Grove lead the recitation of UNCW’s Academic Honor Pledge.

UNCW Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lowell K. Davis recognized some of UNCW’s outstanding students with the first annual sand ceremony. He noted that sand is special to UNCW given its proximity to the coast and it symbolizes hope for all students in the form of a solid foundation, the ability to adapt, true grit and determination, as well as the passage of time.

During the ceremony, the dean of each academic college joined an upperclassman to pour sand into a vase, representing the layers of support available to UNCW students. 

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Keynote speaker Brian Arbogast, professor in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology and the 2022 recipient of the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching, passed on important lessons he’s learned as a student, professor and citizen of the world.

“It is my sincerest hope that your time here will be one of the happiest, most exciting, most stimulating and enlightening experiences of your life. Enjoy the ride and may you find success and happiness beyond your wildest dreams. Be kind. Learn to think critically and be a synthesizer of information. Travel and explore your world and its people. Dream big and give back,” he said.

Following the singing of the Alma Mater, members of the class and campus convened for a picnic.

-- Caroline Cropp

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