The Class of 2011 was officially welcomed to The University of Texas-Pan American family during the Second Annual Freshman Convocation Thursday, Aug. 30 at the Student Union.
Bucky the Bronc, the UTPA mascot, along with UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas, Student Government Association President Tony Matamoros, and UTPA administrators and deans were all on hand to greet the entering freshmen and wish them luck on their first semester at the University.
"Don't think of this as a formal welcome, formal welcomes are for guests, not family, and you are now family," said Dr. Jerry Price, associate vice president and dean of students. "The purpose of this convocation is to affirm the family membership upon you."
Price said the goal of the convocation, sponsored by the Office of the President and the Office of the Dean of Students, is to connect the entering freshmen to their academic families ¬- the six UTPA colleges - and to give them an opportunity to hear from and meet their campus leaders.
"Welcome to The University of Texas-Pan American, and welcome to the most exciting years of your life," said Matamoros, who addressed the packed Student Union Theatre.
As leader of the campus government, Matamoros discussed with students what to expect at UTPA - the good and the bad - and also shared some advice. In addition, he told students they all had a mission in life, whether it is to make their parents proud or to become wealthy individuals. He said whatever their intentions are they all have the potential to contribute to society.
"We are here because we have a mission, and whatever that mission may be for you, I ask you today to either choose to be characterized as students or as student leaders," Matamoros said.
Cárdenas said she was excited to see so many freshmen participate in the celebration. According to unofficial counts, UTPA currently has an enrollment of more than 2,000 entering freshmen.
"This convocation is a celebration and a ritual. It is a celebration of your accomplishments to date, and of you becoming a part of the UTPA family," Cárdenas said.
She encouraged the new students to focus on their academics by managing their time and energy, and also asked them to get to know not only their peers, but also the faculty, administrators and staff. In addition, she asked them to be open to new cultures, be smart, work hard, and believe in themselves in order to earn their degree.
"We need for you to graduate. We love you, but we want you out of here in three, four, five or even six years should the circumstances require. Get out of here and start making your contributions," she said.
After the convocation, the freshmen were escorted to their individual colleges for luncheon receptions where they met with the deans and faculty.
Entering freshman Aaron Cervantez, a Spanish major from Weslaco who lives on campus in Heritage Hall, said he was pumped up for his first year after attending the convocation.
"I really am looking forward to living the Bronc dream and really making the best of it," Cervantez said. "I want to learn as much as possible and make new friends."
Cervantez, who hopes to become a teacher, said a big draw for him to UTPA was its proximity to home and its top-notch programs in Spanish and in education.
Veronica Guardiola, an international business major from Houston, said she is looking forward to starting a new chapter in her life at the University, where she hopes to make new friends, join a couple of campus organizations, get good grades and possibly study abroad.
Guardiola, who lives in on campus in Unity Hall, said her reason for attending UTPA was its affordability. Through UTPA's Office of Student Financial Services, she was awarded two scholarships - UTPA Excellence scholarship and a housing scholarship - to help in her higher education goals.
"I like it here so far. I think this was a good choice for me," Guardiola said.