They’re musicians at the highest level and scientists researching bone marrow transplants and genetics. They’re community activists fighting for LGTBQ issues and veterans with active-duty tours under their belts.
The incoming class of first-years and transfer students is not only the largest class in the history of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but it’s also the most academically accomplished group to come together at Convocation.
As she welcomed the new class of Tar Heels, Chancellor Carol L. Folt encouraged the students to combine their abilities with the faculty expertise at Carolina to change the world around them.
“I urge you to use your potential energy to live what you stand for and to make your community stronger, and to become a force for good in the world,” she said. “That’s your job Class of 2020.”
And with that advice, the Carolina careers of more than 4,200 first-years and more than 775 transfer students officially began Aug. 21 at the annual New Student Convocation at Carmichael Arena. Featuring University leaders and former student body president J.J. Raynor, the event was the new Tar Heels’ grand welcome to UNC-Chapel Hill.
As the new Tar Heels gathered for the first time, Folt posed two simple questions for the group — questions that will guide them through their time in Chapel Hill.
“What does the Class of 2020 want to stand for? Where do you want to leave your own mark?” she asked. “Even though I am just starting to get to know you, I already can say that you’ll each carve your own very special and different path. Even better than that, when you come together, you are going to be unstoppable.”
Raynor, who served as student body president in 2009 and most recently served as the special assistant to President Barack Obama for economic policy, shared her own words of encouragement for students.
Staying curious and finding community, she said, will be keys to their success at Carolina. But most important, Raynor said, is remembering to enjoy the experience itself.
“The next four years are going to be incredibly special, and you’ve only so much time for once in a lifetime adventures,” she said. “ Enjoy them and have fun with the Carolina friends who will be yours for life.”
At the end of the ceremony, students opened Carolina blue envelopes that they were handed as they first entered the arena. Inside they found a booklet of UNC-Chapel Hill traditions, the Honor Code and a tassel — a reminder of their overall goal of graduation.
Led by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost James W. Dean, Jr., and Student Attorney General Frank Jiang, the first-year students recited the honor pledge.
“For more than 100 years, Carolina students have maintained a system of self-governance and self-discipline,” Dean said. “This is fitting for someone who is going to make a difference in the world, and an important tradition that we expect each of you to carry on.”
Students then closed the ceremony interlocking arms and singing Hark the Sound along with acapella group UNC Tarpeggios. But the evening wasn’t over just yet.
In fact, just across campus, the night was just beginning at the 20th annual FallFest.
Held near the Dean Smith Center, the campus-wide party featured demonstrations, games, performances, free food and prizes.
Surrounding the party were informational tables of more than 700 registered student organizations on campus from intramural sports and acapella groups to science and language clubs.
For first-year students, FallFest was their first chance to begin diving into the Carolina community and begin to carve their own path.
“I wanted to find some clubs that I’m really interested in — club soccer, student government and stuff like that,” said first-year student Scott Hofbauer. “This is awesome. This is pretty cool.”