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Poet, Activist Nikki Giovanni Addresses Students, Families at Freshman Convocation

World-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni joined President John Broderick in formally welcoming Old Dominion University's newest students at Freshman Convocation Aug. 29.

The annual ceremony at ODU's Ted Constant Convocation Center, attended by faculty members, and parents, family members and friends of the students, also included remarks from Provost Carol Simpson, Dean of Students Geneva Walker-Johnson, Honor Council Chair Heidi Delacruz, Alumni Association Secretary Andrea Tottossy and Student Body President Justin True.

During the program, the students recited the honor code, sang the alma mater and participated in a ceremony in which they were asked to greet and pin a fellow student near them with an ODU lapel pin.

Giovanni, a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, served as keynote speaker for the program. She talked to the students both about making mistakes - and following dreams.

"You will make mistakes," she said. "It's not the end of the world, it's not the mistake, it's how you answer it."

She advised, "You need a friend. And in order to get through this or any other institution, you must be the friend you're looking for. You must open yourself up to newness, because this is an education. The nature of education is liberal. There's a reason there's no college of conservative arts. We have a college of liberal arts. We don't have to teach you to be narrow-minded, we have to teach you to be expansive."

Using Christopher Columbus, one of her favorite explorers, as an example, she reminded the students that, although he didn't get to where he wanted to go, he didn't stay where he was.

"We sail the world on the dream of spices, on the dream of something sweet, on the dream of something different, on the dream of a possibility," Giovanni said.

Concluding her remarks, she told the students: "What we do in Virginia matters. What we do here at this institution matters. I am at Virginia Tech; we, too, matter. We have got to create a new world. That's why they came up that James River - to find a new world.

"I wish you well. Life is a good, good, good idea. I want you to enjoy it. I want you to work hard to keep it. I want you to pass it along."

Broderick reminded the students about the value of higher education, from an economic standpoint, and encouraged them to do their best while at ODU. "Take advantage of the faculty and staff here on this campus to be successful. That does mean going to class. If you go to class, you're never going to be surprised."

He pointed out that ODU has an outstanding faculty, and that the university is second only to William and Mary among the state's more than 65 colleges and universities in the number of professors who have been honored over the past two decades with teaching awards from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

"The faculty of this institution are certainly not only among the best in the commonwealth, but among the best in the United States," he said.

In closing, Broderick wished the students well on the start of their educational journey at ODU. "I hope you have a great experience, and we look forward to hopefully seeing you in this same room four years from now at a happy graduation ceremony."

This article was posted on: August 30, 2010

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