University Park, IL,
12:44 PM

GSU's First Freshmen Come of Age

The first time Nekia Driver—TAPS major, Freshman Orientation leader, and a member of GSU's inaugural freshman class—saw the stage inside the Center for Performing Arts was at Convocation 2014. She said she felt like she was on Broadway.

"I remember standing all the way in the back and thinking, 'I'm gonna be on that stage.' The theater was huge, and the lights were so beautiful," Driver said. "I was really excited."

She filed in that day not knowing what to expect. A Southland native, she said she moved "a lot" and lived in several area suburbs before graduating and coming to GSU. She had originally wanted to go out of state for college, but proximity to family was important to her—and, in her own words, she "fell in love with the theater program at GSU."

"At my first convocation, to be honest, I felt like I was famous just having those honor cords around my neck. I was talking to faculty members and other freshmen, and I figured we'd just listen to speeches about GSU, but they welcomed us. They steered towards us and made us feel like we were really a part of Governors State," Driver said.

Convocation is a tradition at GSU. It's the formal start to each new academic year, a time when every class—freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, and DDP—can come together and celebrate their next steps. Faculty members gather and are honored as well. The Baysore Award and Faculty Excellence Awards are all given at convocation.

A unique feature of Governors State's undergraduate program and, particularly, the freshman experience is the way that it places new students in the classroom with full-time faculty from day one. Driver acknowledges the important role that professors play at GSU: "I feel like if it wasn't for my relationships with the faculty members, I probably wouldn't be here right now, because I hit a couple bumps in the road," she said.

Despite those bumps, she's still standing, an original member of the university's first freshman class, Nekia said she's "feeling emotional."

"Convocation, to me, means a welcome to a new family, a new start, a new path, and a way to be able to have those ups and downs with people who support you," she said.

Convocation 2017 will be held on Friday, August 25 in the CPA at 3 p.m. this year.