University Park, IL,
12:18 PM

Convocation 2018: A New Beginning

Governors State University Student Senate President Lester Van Moody delivered a message from former First Lady Michelle Obama, a first-generation college student, to more than 150 fresh-faced students during the university’s 2018-19 Convocation on Aug. 24.

“ ‘Don’t waste time worrying about whether you belong in college —you do! Put that energy into working hard and learning as much as you can,’ ‘’ Moody quoted from Obama’s video message to first-generation college students that was recently aired on Good Morning America.

Inspiring speeches and ceremonial rituals were the highlight of Convocation, a time to formally usher in a new academic year. In the Center for Performing Arts (CPA), new and returning students met other students, as well as faculty, and staff who will play critical roles on the journey to graduation.

Convocation this year was powered by students, and the smiling faces of student leaders peered out from a huge screen on the CPA stage to set the tone for the ceremony.

First, the transferring Dual Degree Program students marched in, draped in the colorful cords indicating the institution where they had completed their associate’s degrees.

Next, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students were led in by Student Senators and gonfalon carriers Angel Jackson, Jasmin Garner, and Cariesha “C.C.” Singleton.

Members of the Class of 2022 followed in Colton Krska as the audience stood and applauded the newest Jaguars united with braided cords of black and white, the university’s school colors.

“GSU’s tradition is to give new freshmen GSU cords—cords they will wear four years down the road at their commencement ceremony,’’ Moody said.

A reflective senior, Moody shared wisdom to new students from the former first lady and New York Times Columnist Frank Bruni.

In “How to Get the Most Out of College,’’ the columnist recently encouraged wise college students to “move into a peer relationship with the institution rather than a consumer relationship with it,” by connecting with people, especially in leadership roles.

Moody drew on experience culled from his time spent at GSU. “I urge you today to have a real relationship with GSU—don’t just go to class and call it a day. Get involved … I widened my circle, and it has helped me in so many ways.”

Along with speeches that inspired,  Convocation included music that uplifted. The Trans4mation Gospel Choir performed an acapella rendition of “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway hit, “Rent.”

President Elaine P. Maimon, echoing the chorus said, “This is our first season of love as we welcome all of you.’’

In addition to greeting new and returning students at Convocation is a time for GSU faculty and staff gather  to celebrate excellence during the previous academic year.

Last year, DeLawnia Comer-Hagans, Associate Professor in the College of Health and Human Services; Natalia Ermasova, Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS); and Jason Zingsheim, chair of the Division of Arts and Letters, in CAS, were honored with Faculty Excellence Awards for teaching, research and service. The prestigious award comes with a $6,000 cash prize.

This year’s Faculty Excellence Award winners, presented by students Moody, Timothy Cappos, and Shannon Payne, were:

Xiuqing (Susan) Ji, Associate Professor of Finance, College of Business, whose nominators were impressed with her consistently high standards in teaching, research, and service. Ji’s work has been cited more than 1,200 times by Google Scholar. She co-chaired the committee charged with revising the MBA program, which carries the AACSB accreditation. Ji is —or has been— a member of the University Curriculum Committee, Faculty Senate, and is a faculty representative to the Board of Trustees Human Resources Committee. She “serves as a model of excellence in professional responsibilities” a nominator wrote.


Lara Stache, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies and Program Coordinator, Gender & Sexuality Studies, College of Arts and Sciences is a beloved and well-respected mentor of students and supervisor of internships. Nominators noted Stache’s research that resulted in her book, “Breaking Bad: A Cultural History,” published last year. According to “Library Journal,” the book was a “stunning dissection of “Breaking Bad,” the critically acclaimed AMC TV series,” well researched and a “fun read.”


Katherine Atkins Wix, Assistant Professor, Psychology and Counseling, College of Education, who combines service and research to lead students. Wix created a task force to write a set of competencies for mental health counselors who work with military populations and veterans—the first of its kind.” One student described Wix as someone whose “unwavering support and dedication for her students is unparalleled.”

A second award category honors the late GSU Associate Vice President of Academic Affair Gerald C. Baysore with the highest honor GSU gives employees.

Patricia Guy, ticket sales supervisor in the CPA, received this year’s Baysore Award for demonstrating qualities embodied by the administrator during his eighteen years of service to GSU: absolute integrity, total competence, generous dedication, and unfailing civility. 

President Maimon commended Guy for performing her job with grace, humility, and kindness.

“I can attest, Pat’s customer service skills are excellent,’’ Dr. Maimon said, adding that Guy also sits on a number of committees, including Arts in Education.

Through this outreach program, students from Chicago to Kankakee and from Joliet to Schererville, Indiana, had seen shows at the award-winning CPA.

In keeping with tradition, President Maimon dismissed students, faulty, and staff to an ice cream social in the Hall of Governors, where DJ Jeremy Williams, a recent GSU graduate, energized the room with  Bruno Mars' tunes.

But first, Dr. Maimon shared a line from Obama’s message that resonated with her as she welcomed Jaguars to a new beginning.  “We believe in you. Your success is our success.”