New chancellor welcomes incoming students to Berkeley

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks welcomed some 3,000 incoming freshmen and transfer students to campus during this year’s New Student Convocation, held Monday at Memorial Stadium.

The California Straw Hat Band and Rally Committee was also on hand to greet students and staff at the annual welcome event, which introduces students to the principles that define and drive the Berkeley community in pursuit of excellence, innovation and service.

New Student Convocation 2013

Berkeley’s newest students were encouraged to embrace resilience, resourcefulness and the renegade spirit. (Roibín Ó hÉochaidh photos)

Appearing at his first convocation ceremony, Berkeley’s 10th chancellor encouraged incoming students to use their time at Berkeley “well and wisely” and to connect “vitality in learning and exploration with a desire to contribute to the public good.”

Some 5,800 new freshmen and 2,600 transfer students are expected to enroll at Berkeley for the 2013-14 academic year. Californians make up roughly 70 percent of new undergraduates, with the largest proportion hailing from Bay Area counties.

Dirks challenged students to broaden their outlook beyond their majors to other disciplines as they contemplate and tackle “the many vexing questions facing the world in this time of enormous change.”

The chancellor was joined at this year’s ceremony by Vice Chancellor for Student Services Harry Le Grande and Associate Dean Davide Surratt.

DeeJay Pepito, president of the campus’s undergraduate student body, recalled her days as a new student and urged the newest members of the campus community to face the future with optimism for the possibilities, rather than fear of the unknown.

“DeeJay’s speech was really inspiring for me as a minority student and as a female, and knowing that she has overcome many of the same challenges that I have and will face,” said Rosie Serrato, an incoming student from Monterey Bay.

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks

Chancellor Dirks urged the incoming class to combine “vitality in learning” with passion for public service.

Approximately 18 percent of incoming freshmen are from underrepresented minorities, while one-quarter of new students will be the first in their family to attend a four-year college.

Berkeley alumna and faculty representative Lisa Garcia Bedolla reflected on her unlikely journey from humble beginnings as the daughter of immigrants to successful studies at Berkeley and Yale and her current position as professor of political science.

Urging students to dream big, Bedolla reminded the incoming class that the reputation and success of Berkeley faculty and students are built on the three R’s of resilience, resourcefulness and an all-important renegade spirit.

“Lisa’s words about how Berkeley helped her achieve her dreams gives me hope that one day I can forget what the statistics say about me and become the person I want to be,” said Lynda Ruiz, an incoming student from the Central Valley.

The a cappella group the Golden Overtones closed out the ceremony with a rendition of “Hail to California” before students streamed onto the stadium’s main plaza to enjoy some food and fun with their new classmates in the early evening sun.