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Class of 2026 celebrates at New Student Convocation

Tar Heels gathered in the Dean Smith Center on Aug. 14 for New Student Convocation, an annual celebration that marks the start of students' academic journey at Carolina.

The night before the fall 2022 semester began, members of the Class of 2026 and transfer and graduate students gathered in the Dean E. Smith Center for New Student Convocation and heard from campus leaders and distinguished Tar Heels, who urged them to build community during their years at Chapel Hill.

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz welcomed the students to Chapel Hill and encouraged them to lean on each other and become part of the Carolina community. To illustrate his point, he talked about a favorite Carolina tradition for students — taking a sip from the Old Well on the first day of classes, which, legend has it, will bring good grades.

“The Old Well represents our history and the ties that bind us together as a community,” Guskiewicz said. “We participate in this tradition because we know we can’t succeed alone: we need each other.”

Guskiewicz also told students he hopes they become friends with people they never expected.

“Eighteen percent of you are first generation college students. You are Carolina Covenant scholars, student-athletes, community servants and entrepreneurs,” Guskiewicz said. “Together, you represent 95 North Carolina counties, 48 states and 85 different countries. You have different perspectives, ideas and opinions, and it’s that diversity that makes this campus strong.”

Students arrive at the Dean Smith Center for convocation.

Students arrive at the Dean Smith Center for convocation. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The night’s keynote speaker was Katie Hoeg, a 2022 graduate who was the all-time leading scorer in Carolina’s women’s lacrosse history and is now an Adams School of Dentistry student. Hoeg shared lessons learned as a student-athlete — to use natural gifts, to be brave, to positively influence others, to show courage and to always keep a good attitude.

“If you embrace your gifts, be courageous, positively impact those around you, be better than who you were yesterday and do it all with gratitude — you will not only exist through college, you will flourish,” Hoeg said.

Hoeg, who competed during the COVID-19 pandemic, encouraged the Class of 2026 to cherish their limited time on campus.

“This next chapter will inevitably be filled with obstacles that will challenge the gratitude that you feel right now,” Hoeg said. When those obstacles occur, “it’s easy to forget just how lucky you all are. You are the chosen ones that get to attend this amazing university to pursue a stellar education in a beautiful place with astounding people.”

At the end of the ceremony, the students opened Carolina blue envelopes in unison to find a copy of the University’s honor code and graduation tassels, which symbolize the students’ futures as Tar Heel alumni. The students then linked arms and sang Carolina’s alma mater, “Hark the Sound.”

Students walking down stairs to FallFest

FallFest was held in and around the Frank Porter Graham Student Union on Aug. 14, 2022. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

After convocation, students walked to the Carolina Union to attend FallFest, a celebration that features free food, giveaways, games, music, activities and more. This year marked the first time Fall Fest had been held since 2019.

“It’s exciting to see my class all together for the first time and meet new people,” first-year student Zoe Monroe said at FallFest. “Now we’re starting the year seeing how many clubs and opportunities there are to join at Carolina.”