Convocation 2022 Celebrates a New Year, Excellence
Dr. Green presented the Excellence awards to Professor Walter Henne and Professor Rebecca Siefert from the College of Arts and Sciences and Carlos Ferran from the College of Business. Tracy Sullivan, Associate Vice President of Procurement and Business Services, won the university's highest honor, the Baysore Award.
Governors State University officially kicked off the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic school year with a salute to excellence in a ceremony that featured the Joliet Police Department Honor Guard and was attended by members of the Board of Trustees. Gov. Pritzker joined in the celebration virtually with a video message to first-year students.
GSU’s leadership, faculty, staff and students gathered in the Center for Performing Arts for the annual tradition that honored and welcomed record number of new and returning students.
Cabinet members, adorned in academic regalia, looked on with pride as the Honor Guard started the ceremony with a presentation of nation’s and state’s colors. Officers marched to the stage in their ceremonial uniforms, donning the American and state of Illinois flags. Vocalist Leann Williams, accompanied by Cliff Dubois joined them on stage to perform a powerful rendition of the national anthem.
After this moving performance, President Cheryl Green offered encouraging words to attendees about the exciting things to come in the new academic year.
“The year ahead will be unlike any other,” Dr. Green said. “We persisted and we prevailed during the recent pandemic and we can continue to do so, if we focus on our mission and purpose as an institution of higher education and as uniquely talented individuals.”
She highlighted some of GSU’s notable achievements and initiatives including a 20 percent increase in new student enrollment from pre-pandemic levels. In addition to enrolling a record number of first-year students, the university experienced a 58.3% increase in fall 2022 compared to fall 2021 enrollments. Dr. Green said her work to address socio-economic inequities through education is an honor and privilege.
“With these initiatives, we must collaborate to cultivate a climate of innovation, achievement and engagement for the entire campus community,” Green said. “I am committed to this end. Together we will overcome any challenge ahead and together, we must.”
Dr. Green’s inspiring insights were followed by a video message from Pritzker, who welcomed students back to campus and applauded them for helping to fight the COVID-19 pandemic as they pursued their studies. He also recognized GSU for taking the lead in workforce development in the South Cook County region and “establishing itself as a hub for equity and inclusion” despite a challenging two years.
“To every GSU student, I know the last two years have been challenging and it's been a long road to get here but you made it and I couldn’t be prouder of your persistence and resilience. Here’s to an incredible academic year,” Pritzker said.
Student Senate President Marquis Parks spoke directly to the class of 2026, offering them tips for success as they navigate the new school year.
He urged them to use GSU’s resources such as the Academic Resource Center and the Counseling and Wellness Center. He also called on students to get involved by exploring GSU’s clubs, the university’s award-winning sculpture park and to voice their concerns.
“As your student senate president, my goal is to make sure your voice is as loud as mine,” he said. “I advocate for student success because I want to watch all of us walk across that stage and make our marks.”
Keynote speaker Ron Daley ('77) also had wise words to offer nervous new students. Daley discussed the role GSU played in his career journey at R.R. Donnelly where he started out reading phone books and ended as president of Donnelley Print Solutions.
“Your ability to reason; to think critically is important in today’s world,” he said. “If you can think critically and you can reason, you can outperform those who can’t and you can differentiate yourself. And guess what? You're at a good place to do that.”
Daley’s message resonated with first-year student Jasmine Anderson who is enrolled at GSU for the second time. She first enrolled in fall 2021, but left because the courses seemed irrelevant to her dreams of becoming a nurse. After a year working odd jobs, including one at Amazon, Anderson is back at GSU and more focused.
“What I loved about his speech was it reminded me so much of my own journey,’’ said Anderson. “I knew I could do better and decided to come back to study psychology.”
With a focus on the mind, Board of Trustee Chair Angela Sebastian left students with three takeaways.
“Embrace your beginner's mindset, get clear on your purpose when things get difficult, and remember that you are not alone,” she said.
Faculty Senate President Marlon Cummings, who served as the master of ceremonies, then rallied the crowd to give a standing ovation to the university's faculty for all that they do.
“Without you, we wouldn't be able to do this work,” Cummings said.
The hour-long ceremony culminated with Dr. Green presenting three Excellence awards, given based on distinction in teaching, performance of primary duties, research and creative activity, and the Baysore award, named for a Dr. Gerald Baysore, who served as Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs. The award recognizes those who demonstrate absolute integrity, total competence, generous dedication and unfailing civility.
The Excellence Award winners include Professor Walter Henne and Professor Rebecca Siefert from the College of Arts and Sciences and Carlos Ferran from the College of Business.
Dr. Green called Dr. Henne, a “world class researcher,” who served as “a vaccine hunter and angel” in Chicago, even amid the loss of his father to COVID-19.
“Despite suffering his own family losses, he worked tirelessly with GSU’s media department to produce pro-vaccination and COVID-19 safety articles for our campus. He also worked with the local community to dispel vaccine myths via Facebook.”
Dr. Green applauded Dr. Siefert, the sole art historian on GSU’s faculty, for her many contributions to the university. Among them were her efforts during remote instruction, when she organized a program that saw visiting artists meet virtually with students to share their work and expertise. That’s in addition to her research agenda that’s focused on the role of women in architecture.
“We congratulate you Dr. Siefert,” Dr. Green said.
Dr. Ferran helped GSU move to fully online courses and assisted faculty in developing and improving courses.
“Dr. Carlos Ferran’s service during those two years of the pandemic was more than exemplary. It was excessive,” Dr. Green said, with a smile.
After celebrating these award winners, Green went on to give the university’s highest honor, the Dr. Gerald C. Baysore award.
This year’s winner is Tracy Sullivan, Associate Vice President of Procurement and Business Services. She has been named to and served on several distinguished boards including the Illinois Procurement Higher Education Cooperative Board of Trustees, which consists of executives from all of the public universities in the state. In 2022, she was nominated to serve as chair of the board. She was also recently appointed by Prtizker to serve on the Business Enterprise Program Council.
Green closed the program by congratulating all award winners and inviting attendees to an ice cream social in the Hall of Governors.
“Freshmen, welcome to Governors State University,” she said.