New undergraduate students and their families, faculty members, and leaders at NSU celebrated the start of the 2014-2015 academic year at the Convocation ceremony on Aug. 22 in the Arena at the Don Taft University Center.
Hosted by Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, the event included a poignant keynote speech by award-winning author and musician James McBride.
Also addressing students were NSU President George Hanbury II, Ph.D.; and Jason Gershman, Ph.D., associate professor at the college, coordinator of mathematics, and the recipient of the 2014 Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences Full-Time Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.
Biology major Jessica Millar, a senior and member of the Undergraduate Honors Program, also spoke at the ceremony, encouraging students to embrace college life and “don’t be afraid of challenge.”
“As you embark upon this journey, don’t be afraid to ask, to get involved,” Hanbury said. “Learn from any mistake and become a better student and a better person. Never compromise your integrity––like a mirror, once shattered it’s almost impossible to glue back together.”
Referring to this year’s academic theme of Identity, Gershman said: “When I started college 16 years ago, I had no idea what I wanted for my career. College is the perfect time and place to discover what you’re passionate about, and to embrace your true identity.
“The theme of identity is relevant to everyone—but especially to you, our students, as you explore and discover different academic and personal interests throughout your college experience.”
McBride is the author of The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, the college’s book selection for the 2014 First-Year Reading Program. In the book, McBride explores the complex identity of his mother, a white Jewish woman from Poland who married a black man, founded a Baptist church, and put 12 children through college. Interspersed with his mother’s story are the author’s own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty and his eventual self-realization and professional success.
McBride’s second book, Miracle at St. Anna, was made into a film directed by Spike Lee. The author’s book, Song Yet Sung, is a national bestseller. His latest novel, The Good Lord Bird, won the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction.
A graduate of Oberlin College and the Columbia School of Journalism, McBride also is an award-winning composer and jazz saxophonist.
McBride encouraged students to pursue what they love to do, even if their path is met with resistance. “I know a lot of you have done a lot to be here,” McBride said. “Students, you’re here to learn how to think. You learn how to think and how to take care of yourself when you do what you love to do.”
McBride urged students to live by their beliefs and demonstrate tolerance and respect for others through their actions––and not simply words––in their everyday lives.
“You’ll never again be in a place where there are so many people who are different from you,” he said before providing some insight into the title of his book: “I used to ask my mother, ‘what color is God?’ She said, ‘God doesn’t have a color. God is the color of water. Water doesn’t have a color.’”
Visit the college’s Photo Gallery to view pictures taken at this event