OXFORD – Roughly one-fourth of freshmen who entered the University of Mississippi in 1994 graduated within four years.
Of those who entered in 2004, more than one-third managed the feat.
In hopes of pushing that rate much higher, Ole Miss officials challenged this year’s newcomers at a formal Freshman Convocation on Thursday night at the Tad Smith Coliseum to identify themselves as members of the Ole Miss family and, throughout their undergraduate careers, as the Class of 2014.
The ceremony included a collective recitation of the Ole Miss Creed and singing of the Alma Mater.
Another highlight was the distribution of commemorative Convocation coins to the new students. On one side is the university seal along with the word “convocation.” On the other side the words “Class of 2014” are an unsubtle reminder of the expectation of a four-year undergraduate career.
“Each time you look at it, you will be reminded of your goal to graduate with your class in May of 2014,” said Dr. Larry Sparks, vice chancellor for student affairs.
Provost Morris Stocks echoed that sentiment.
“This freshman class, your class, the Class of 2014, is the largest and brightest incoming class in the history of the University of Mississippi,” said Provost Morris Stocks. “This convocation simply mirrors the commencement ceremony that will mark your graduation in a few short years – the bookends of your academic journey at this university.”
Chancellor Dan Jones urged the new students not to let adversity deter them from their goals.
“You shouldn’t be surprised that there are surprises along the way,” he said. “Sometimes things don’t work out the way we expect. Expect changes; expect growth; and yes, expect some disappointment in the days to come.”
Dr. Ethel Young-Minor, associate professor of English and African-American studies, urged in the evening’s keynote address that students “get a feeling.”
“Feel the people, feel the place,” she said. “This is a place where the impossible definitely becomes possible.”
After the Convocation, Jean Phillips, a freshman from Memphis, said despite not having yet chosen a major she intends to graduate in May 2014.
“I loved the speaker. She was exciting,” Phillips said.
Dewey Knight, associate director of financial aid at Ole Miss, said Thursday afternoon the university is concentrating efforts to boost retention with more academic support and more community building.
“Our retention is very good considering we have an almost open enrollment,” he said. “Our numbers indicate we are going to be even stronger.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal