Convocation 2021 Welcomes Students to Campus
After a year removed, excitement bubbled over when Governors State University (GSU) kicked off the 2021-22 academic year with its first in-person convocation ceremony since 2019.
Board Trustee Kevin Brookins joined faculty, staff and students gathered happily in the Center for Performance Arts for the annual tradition hosted virtually last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
With cabinet members seated and socially distanced on stage, Sophomore Marquis Parks kicked off the ceremony with a moving rendition of the national anthem.
Student Senate President Ruben Lopez, who served as master of ceremonies, offered encouraging words to help new and returning students, some of whom are still learning remotely as the pandemic persists.
“Let’s congratulate ourselves for being here to take in this moment,” he said, leading applause.
“For some, college is a brand-new experience,” Lopez said. “For others, you may be transferring in or returning. As our academic school year begins, are excited for the possibilities and experiences that lie ahead.”
He urged his peers to take advantage of the Counseling and Wellness Center, noting that wellness “is both mental and physical health.”
Lopez said “engagement is a pathway to success ... and to build a sense of belonging.”
Dr. Green, who began her tenure last year on a largely empty campus, was welcomed with a standing ovation, and then presented three Excellence Awards.
The winners are based on distinction in teaching, performance of primary duties, research and creative activity and/or service, she said.
Keane, a licensed attorney, “keeps her students engaged,” Green said. “Her service, both internal and external, is impressive.”
Keane said she was surprised she won “because I know the level of quality of faculty in this university.”
“I can’t tell you how much I love my job,” Keane said.
Green called Klomes “a positive and optimistic individual willing to learn, pleased to mentor and highly engaged in university life.”
Klomes, who has been at GSU for more than 20 years, was overwhelmed.
“I want to cry and I’m shaking. That’s because it’s been a wonderful road and I’m happy to be here,” Klomes said.
Green said Pagone “strives to strengthen the values of democracy and equity on campus.”
Pagone, who said “my heart is beating out of my chest,” thanked her colleagues and “my students because they’re the people who inspire me every day.”
Green also presented the university’s highest honor to two staff members.
Calling GSU, “the jewel of the Southland,” Green said the award is in memory of Dr. Gerald C. Baysore, former associate vice president of Academic Affairs who for 18 years served GSU with distinction.
The award is the highest honor GSU can bestow on an employee, Green said. The recipients demonstrate absolute integrity, total competence, generous dedication and unfailing civility.
Usually, there is one recipient. But the committee was unable to choose between two finalists because both are so deserving.
This year’s winners are Timothy Cappos, Copywriter and Project Coordinator in the Office of Marketing and Communications; and Corey Williams, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.
Cappos’ work “has a very public impact,” Green said, nothing his participation in the GSU early childhood task force, designing a web site that is so informative that it is used in presentations instead of a power point.
He also works on the GSU COVID web site. Web design, she noted, was not part of his job description.
“Tim taught himself web master skills, quietly doing what needed to be done,” Green said.
Cappos called the award was “very unexpected” and thanked his coworkers for their support.
A humbled Williams was “beyond words.” He said he shared the award with the “incredible team of people I have in Student Affairs.”
Every day, Williams said, he asks himself “whose life am I going to impact today. ... That’s what drives me... I love what I do,” Williams said. “I’m committed to what I do, and I’m glad I’m doing it here at Governors State University.”
Green’s state of the union address focused on achievements.
“While we are facing unprecedented times, we have much to celebrate and appreciate,” Green said.
She noted success by various departments and colleges. Here are some highlights:
- The College of Education’s agreement with other colleges and private institutions to improve access for students seeking childhood education degrees.
- College of Arts and Science’s Center for Community Media offering independent and collaborative research, as well as housing the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, recently named Best Sculpture Park in the nation from USA Today readers.
- The College of Business’ Supply Chain Innovation and Business Incubator Center working with community partners to generate $30,000 in net revenue.
- A $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services administration to provide tuition reimbursement for eligible nursing students in the College of Health and Human Services.
- The School of Extended Learning being named one of 30 partners in the nation to participate in the Amazon Career Choice Program that provides training for careers outside Amazon.
- The Athletics Department has added four varsity reserve teams to the roster -- men's basketball, men's and women's soccer and women's volleyball.
Additionally, the university continues to practice fiscal responsibility and prudence, finishing the FY21 year with a surplus, Green said.
Looking ahead, she posed two rhetorical questions to faculty, staff and students: “Will we face challenges this year? Yes, we will. Will we overcome challenges this year? Yes, we will. Together, we can face any challenges that may come our way.”