Convocation 2023 celebrates excellence and new beginnings
Governors State University (GovState) Alumna Kayla Siam (’14) shared her undergraduate experiences with the Class of 2027 and then offered a valuable life perspective: “During your time at Governors State, borrow all the lessons.”
Siam was the keynote speaker during the 2023 Convocation, a celebration of education and academic excellence. She joined trustees, faculty and members of President Cheryl Green’s cabinet to welcome new and returning Jaguars as the 2023-24 academic year gets underway. Jax the Jaguar was also on hand to pump up the crowd.
“We provide freshmen with a commemorative cord. Look at this cord throughout your time at GovState and be reminded of your goals that you’ve set here,” said William Kresse, Associate Professor of Accounting, who served as master of ceremonies.
All in attendance watched as faculty donned in regalia processed in, followed by members of the class of 2027. Vocalist Felicia Patton, accompanied by Cliff Dubose, made their way to the stage for a beautiful rendition of the Black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” followed by the American national anthem.
In a video message, Dr. Green declared the opening of the academic year. She encouraged all to make it a commitment to stepping out of their comfort zones.
“You are about to embark on an exciting new chapter full of discoveries about yourselves, your passion and your purpose.”
Dr. Green was thrilled to share positive updates on GovState. Prudent fiscal management and generosity of donors has strengthened GovState's financial position. She thanked Will County, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Sen. Patrick Joyce and State Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin for their support.
Student Senate President Marquis Parks was next to take the podium, offering tips for the incoming class to make their first year successful.
He urged them to use all resources available to them, like the Academic Resource Center and the Counseling and Wellness Center. He also encouraged them to get involved in GovState’s clubs and organizations, explore the campus, and voice any concerns.
The last piece of advice he offered to students was to go at their own pace.
“This is not a race. This is your timeline. I want to ask that you persist and just finish,” said Parks.
Siam shared her undergraduate, law school, and professional experiences. Her theme, ‘Borrowed lessons are more valuable than bought ones,” seemed to resonate with all in attendance. “During your time at Governors State, borrow all the lessons you can.”
Board of Trustees Chair Angela Sebastian offered her own words of wisdom for students to turn to when their course work becomes difficult.
“Why are you here? Whatever your reason is, hold onto it,” said Sebastian.
In a diversion from previous years, GovState underscored its commitment to fostering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) across the community.
Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Joi Patterson introduced the inaugural DEI mini grant award recipients. Keeping with the university’s mission to demonstrate diversity and inclusiveness, GovState dedicated $25K in funding to encourage acceptance of wide-ranging perspectives of the GovState community.
The funding was divided equally into five mini grants to support efforts of GovState’s faculty, staff and student organizations that help GovState become a “model for belonging, inclusivity, and equity in a diverse community.”
The grants went to the following proposals:
- A Study of Minority-Owned Enterprises in the Chicagoland Region & Illinois State
- Advancing Equity Minded Leadership
- Building a Culture of Accessibility and Inclusion in Teaching & Learning
- Chicago Southland International Film Festival
- The Southland History Collective: Engaging Local Histories for Diverse, Inclusive, and Equitable Civic Action
Before the ceremony concluded, Provost Beverly Schneller presented three Excellence awards, honors given based on distinction in teaching, performance of primary duties, research and creative activity.
The recipients include Dr. Benjamin Almassi, Professor of Political Science, and Dr. Valerie Cronin-Fisher, Assistant Professor of Communication, from the College of Arts and Sciences and Dr. Danielle Osmelak, Assistant Professor of Communication Disorders, from the College of Health and Human Services.
Following the presentation of Excellence Awards, Dr. Corey Bradford, Vice President of Administration and Finance, presented the university’s highest honor, the Baysore award, named for 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.
This year’s winner is James McGee, Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety, who has served in law enforcement for over 30 years, with 24 of those dedicated to GovState.
Dr. Schneller shared thoughtful words before the ceremony’s close.
“Our convocation establishes our GovState community as a pillar of knowledge and of opportunity,” said Dr. Schneller. “Let us all be part of that forward motion to address common challenges by focusing outward on hope through success now and for the future.”