Carolina is famously located on a hill, but the academic terrain of Chapel Hill can look much steeper to a first-year student. Speaking at New Student Convocation in the Dean E. Smith Center on Sunday evening, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz reassured the Class of 2027: “The climb is worth it.”
Guskiewicz chose those five words in a nod to talk show host Stephen Colbert’s “Questionert,” which asks guests to describe the rest of their lives in five words. He changed it to “the rest of your Tar Heel journey” and suggested some students might be thinking “Survive and get a job,” “Make best friends for life” or (the crowd favorite) “Win a national championship twice.”
“The journey that you are beginning is a lot like climbing a mountain,” Guskiewicz said. “But you didn’t come to Carolina for easy. Remember this: the climb is worth it.”
Keynote speaker Nehemiah Stewart urged students to be the change they want to see. “Education is power. Power is responsibility. Responsibility is opportunity,” said Stewart, a 2021 graduate now enrolled in the School of Medicine’s MD-Ph.D. program. At Carolina, he founded the Vector ridesharing company (now known as Schoolpool) because of his own experience trying to get rides home to Washington, D.C., from college. As a response to national unrest in 2020, Stewart created Level the Playing Field, a nonprofit to recruit diverse college students, train them in professional development skills and place them in influential internships at top corporations.
“The injustices of the world will cause a friction within you. It will chafe against your inner core as you wonder, ‘Why has no one stepped up to heal the pains of this world with a soothing ointment?’” Stewart told the new undergraduates. “And as you journey through your four years, my friends, you’ll discover that there is no one to care for these issues except you.”
Convocation also included in-person and video greetings from other administrators and student officers and a highlight reel of events and activities like the ones students will experience in the next four years. The Class of 2027 saw the reveal of its official logo banner, which incorporates a Tar Heel as the number 7, recited the Honor Code pledge and sang and swayed to the Alma Mater.
“This might be the last time you are all in a room together until graduation, so say ‘hi’ to the person next to you,” said Student Body President Chris Everett. “College is fun, so act like it.”
The advice was a fitting sendoff for the group who would stream from the arena to Fall Fest in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union, the Pit and Polk Place. There they would score Carolina swag, make their own stuffed rams, snack on free food and generally enjoy the night before their first day of classes.