Class of 2020 Greeted with 2016 Convocation

Posted on August 15, 2016
Joy Washington

The University of South Alabama's Class of 2020 on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, at the USA Mitchell Center. data-lightbox='featured'
The University of South Alabama's Class of 2020 on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, at the USA Mitchell Center. Full, high-resolution photo available by clicking the cloud icon to the right. Download larger image

President Tony Waldrop began his remarks at Freshman Convocation on Monday, Aug. 16, by sharing a lighthearted story about his reluctant search for Pokémon Go characters on the University of South Alabama campus. Along the way, he stressed important insights with the Class of 2020 about how to have a positive and successful college experience.

  • Get Involved with campus organizations and events, like the Oozeball mud volleyball tournament.
  • Find Balance by getting adequate sleep, and participating in fitness activities at the Student Recreation Center.
  • Stay Focused, or else you spin around in circles, which is similar to driving around the campus traffic circle.
  • Be Daring, take calculated risks, and try and create new things.
  • Seize Opportunity when it presents itself. “I know some of the struggles you will have,” said Waldrop, a first-generation student, noting that at least a third of the Class of 2020 are first-generation students as were six others in University senior leadership. “I also know, through hard work, you will have some wonderful opportunities. Seize opportunity.”
  • Finish college in four years. Waldrop said he would see members of the Class of 2020 as they walked across the stage at Commencement to receive their degrees.  At the end of Waldrop’s visual presentation, he seized opportunity by finishing his game, capturing several Pokémon at Moulton Tower.  

Convocation, which included 1,160 new freshmen, is a tradition that unifies the Class of 2020, and aims to help them become more successful Jaguar students. South’s transfer and returning students, along with faculty, staff and administration, also participated.

Convocation is one of many events taking place in the next few weeks as students return to and begin classes.

The Class of 2020 was also welcomed Monday with the presentation of colors by South’s ROTC Color Guard and the National Anthem.  Also, an invocation was given by Dr. Sam Fisher, president of the faculty senate and associate professor of political science and criminal justice, and the sound of music was shared by the South Alabama Jaguar Marching Band, along with cheers from the cheerleaders, the dance team and crowd. And SouthPaw and Miss Pawla welcomed the freshman class in their own high-spirited way.

The freshman class sat front and center as Dr. Michael Mitchell, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, gave them words of encouragement.

“This is your day,” Mitchell said. “This is your journey into higher education. This is a special place, and as an alumnus of South, it helped me find my life’s passion, which is working as your dean of students.”

Joshua Crownover, president of the Student Government Association, talked about how to be successful.

“Take the steps to get out of your comfort zone,” he said. “True success means never giving up. I was a first-generation student, and I want you to be successful.”

Emily Jerkins, Class of 2015 and research manager with the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, also shared stories of inspiration, expressing how the students should never lose sight of their goals and dreams.

“I had challenges as a first-generation student,” Jerkins said. “When I was a sophomore, my dad lost his job. I had to work 2-3 jobs to help with my expenses. But, I didn’t give up. I challenge you to make the best of your four years.”

Kyle Allen, Class of 2019, boldly shared these words of inspiration.

“Be college responsible by finishing your homework,” he said. “More freedom and independence will lead you to success. And, keep your eyes open to opportunities.”

Dr. Susan McCready, professor of modern and classical languages and literature and member of the Common Read Selection Committee, invited all students, faculty and staff to read the 2016 Common Read book, “The Complete Maus.” It is the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. Art Spiegelman, author, tells the story of his parents, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The Class of 2020 also gathered Monday to take the official class photo and learned South’s fight song. Following Convocation, lunch was served on the Mitchell Center concourse. And, what did some of the new freshmen think about Convocation?

  • Kara Gentry, a native of Birmingham, will major in nursing. She said, “This was a great experience. I am proud to be a Jaguar.”
  • Daniel Heltz, a native of Baton Rouge, will major in meteorology. He said, “I love the South Alabama Jaguar Marching Band.”

To view some interesting facts about the Class of 2020, visit


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