The excitement of a new academic year was palpable in the cheerful chatter of the students, faculty, staff, and parents trickling into Turner Gymnasium on Sunday morning for the University of Lynchburg’s New Student Convocation.
A loud “Good morning, Hornets! Woo!” from President Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar — who followed University Chaplain Nathan Albert’s invocation — commanded everyone’s attention.
The president noted that she was now a rising junior, having started her presidential career at Lynchburg in August 2020.
“The key to your success from this day forward demands that you leave your own footprint on this University — making these the best years of your life, making the University of Lynchburg your home,” she said, referencing the actual red key all new students received at the ceremony.
“While we hope to change your life and that one day you will go out and change the world, we also hope that you will change this place that will be your home for the next four years.”
She went on to name eight “key things to do to open doors and create opportunities for yourself and others,” including asking questions, accepting responsibility, and leading “by helping others succeed.”
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Allison Jablonski introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Holly Gould. A professor of curriculum and instruction in the University’s College of Education, Leadership Studies, and Counseling, Gould received the student-selected 2022 Shirley E. Rosser Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Gould, who has been at Lynchburg since 2015, admitted she’d been “agonizing” over her speech all summer, but finally found inspiration in the TV show “Ted Lasso,” which centers on an American football coach hired to coach soccer in England.
After making sure the show would resonate with Gen-Z by binge watching it over and over again with her 20- and 17-year-olds, Gould put together a list of “Ted Lasso” quotes and lessons that can be used as advice for college students.
The first one: “We can’t be good partners unless we get to know each other.” As Gould explained, “Relationships are the cornerstones of life and education.”
The second lesson emphasized that challenges help us grow, Gould said: “I can’t be your mentor without occasionally being your tormentor.”
Other lessons included “If someone picks a book for you, read it,” “Don’t let your attitude dull the shine of your ability,” “Every choice is a chance,” and, perhaps most importantly, as Gould pointed out, “Believe.”
The Lynchburg team, she said, is here to support students, “but to benefit, you have to put in the time and the sweat equity.
“It may be challenging at times, and you may feel like you are in the middle of a dark forest,” she added. “But as Ted Lasso says, ‘The story never begins or ends in the dark forest.’
“You will get through it and come through to the clearing on the other side with the knowledge and skill to become successful graduates and lifelong learners. Listen to Ted: Believe.”
Jablonski officially welcomed the new students and faculty to another academic year before Student Government Association President Claire King ’23 gave her charge.
Recalling her own “mixed emotions” when she was a first-year, King said getting involved in campus life and “finding belonging” helped her break out of her shell.
“I implore you to get involved, make connections, and create community,” she said.
Convocation was followed by a reception and presidential address for the new families and, in the evening, the traditional Candlelight Ceremony.